With his new three-year entry-level contract in his back pocket, New Jersey Devils prospect Pavel Zacha hoping to prove he belongs in the NHL as an 18-year-old.
“I’ve never been in a full (training) camp of the NHL. I was just in development camp. But, it’s my goal for this season to play in the NHL and now it’s up to me to show everyone that I can make the team and I’ll do everything for that,” Zacha said per The Bergen Record.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder was the sixth overall selection at the June NHL Draft.
Not surprisingly, Devils’ GM Ray Shero is pumping the breaks on expectations for Zacha.
“I don’t know,” Shero told The Star-Ledger when asked if Zacha is capable of playing in the NHL this season. “One day he will. Whether it’s going to be this year or in the future, we’re not sure. I’m not leaning one way or the other. It’s a decision he makes for us at some point.
“He’s got to trust us that we’re going to do what’s best for us and what’s best for him. If that means starting the year here or playing the year here, we feel that would be the best thing. If it’s going to be the opposite and we send him back to Sarnia (OHL), he’s got to trust that’s the proper form of development for him.”
During his first season in the Ontario Hockey League, Zacha scored 16 goals and 34 points in 37 games with the Sarnia Sting. He added a goal and an assist in five games at the 2015 world juniors for the Czech Republic.
For those who haven’t seen Zacha play, North American Central Scouting president, Mark Seidel, had the following report on the center prior to the NHL Draft:
Zacha’s biggest strengths are his skating and ability to beat defenders one-on-one; he has a skill set that’s hard to handle and will become an offensive force as he develops. Like most offensive stars, Zacha still needs to work on his defensive game, but the heady Czech will add that to his repertoire for whichever team selects him.
As for what he expects to see from Zacha at training camp, Shero is taking a wait and see approach.
“I don’t want to put any added pressure on him. We had that conversation as well in terms of just coming in and enjoying the process,” Shero said. “There will be a big day, a not-so-good day, a big game and a not-so-good game maybe.
“We’re in this for the longer term. As we go through training camp well see how he picks up things in terms of systems and how he feels about his game and confidence. It’s a big step for sure.”
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