Struggling rookie Zacha ‘needs to get more competitive,’ says Hynes

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Tough times for Pavel Zacha.

Zacha, the prized Devils prospect taken sixth overall in ’15, is struggling through a rookie campaign that saw his pointless streak extend to 14 games in last night’s 3-0 loss to Florida.

Zacha’s most significant “impact” on the game was a boarding major on Panthers forward Denis Malgin, one that knocked Malgin out for the evening and kept Zacha to just over 10 minutes of ice time overall. And in addition to going scoreless, the big Czech center failed to register a single shot on goal.

That’s something the Devils have been monitoring, per NJ.com:

Asked about Zacha after Monday’s morning skate, Devils coach John Hynes threw out some harsh criticism.

“Why is he not scoring?” Hynes said. “He’s got to shoot the puck more. He has to play harder on the puck in the offensive area. He’s got to skate. He’s not putting himself in positions to score goals either.

“So instead of wondering why the goals aren’t going in, let’s continue to work on how we’re going to create more scoring (and) use his assets. … When he’s in opportunities to shoot the puck, shoot it.”

Asked if Zacha needs to get stronger, Hynes shot back, “He needs to get more competitive.”

The Devils clearly expected more from Zacha, even though he is only 19 years old. A solid scorer in junior (64 points in 51 games with OHL Sarnia), he burst onto the scene last year in his NHL debut, finishing the game with a pair of assists.

This year, though, he has just two goals and seven points through 35 games. And that’s with Hynes already having sent a few messages by way of the healthy scratch.

It’s been a tough season for the Devils overall, with Hynes constantly complaining about his team being too easy to play against. Fairly or not, Zacha has been lumped into that group, so it’ll be interesting to see if he continues to play with more physicality and further utilizes his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame.