With a 6’ 3” frame packed with 212 pounds, Pavel Zacha certainly has the markings of an NHL power forward. He was interviewed by 24 teams, including the Flyers, at the recent NHL combine, and reports say that the team came away very impressed with the 18-year old Czech. And with good reason: Zacha, who plays center and left wing, combines the physical attributes that teams crave, along with elite skating abilities, great speed and puck handling.
Zacha possesses a powerful and accurate shot. His wrist shot is said to be one of the best of all prospects in the draft. He also uses his body to shield the puck from defenders and create space for himself. These accolades are some of the reasons why Zacha is considered to be a prospect with one of the highest ceilings in the draft.
Zacha came to North America at 17 years old, in an effort to become acclimated to the smaller ice surface and to learn the style of play for North American hockey, and the nuances of the game. He played for Sarnia of the OHL. “Everybody told me here in the junior league was the best to prepare for the NHL. I was playing on a bigger ice surface. I learned more about the language and style of play. I think it was good to come here one year before the draft and play in the CHL,” Zacha replied when asked why he came to North America at 17.
This past season in the OHL, Zacha generated 0.91 points per game – 16 goals and 34 points in 37 games. These are certainly not elite numbers, but decent for a player who was experiencing his first taste of major junior level hockey. Zacha will only get better as he develops, since he is said to have the innate skills – vision on the ice, positional awareness – that cannot be taught.
SCOUTING REPORT (via Elite Prospects)
“Pavel Zacha is an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to make a significant impact on the game. He can play physical, but is at his best when using his high-end offensive abilities, such as his shot, stickhandling, and footspeed, to generate numbers in the opposition’s end of the ice. All-in-all, Zacha is a lethal weapon that can be depended upon to create, and finish, dangerous scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.”
ACCOLADES (via NHL.com)
“In his first season in North America, Zacha registered nearly a point-per-game in 2014-15, finishing with 32 points (16-18—34) in 37 games for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.
Zacha played 38 games for Liberec in the Czech Republic’s top League in 2013-14, where he was mentored by former NHL player Petr Nedved. Nedved, who was selected second overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1990 and skated in 982 career NHL games, helped prepare Zacha for his transition to North America.
Internationally, Zacha represented the Czech Republic on the Under-16 team as a 14-year old in 2011, and skated for both the Under-17 and Under-18 squads the following year as a 15-year old. He has represented his country twice at the Under-18 World Junior Championship, earning a silver medal in 2014 with 3-2—5 in seven games. He also participated in the World Junior Championship on two occasions (2014, 2015).
Zacha has picked up the English language quickly by watching and reciting subtitled versions of his favorite movies, including Dumb and Dumber.”
DRAFT DAY DECISION
Zacha could be the first Czech player chosen in the top 10 since Jake Voracek was selected (ironically) at seven by Columbus in 2007. Will the Flyers be the team to take him? Perhaps. The Flyers’ contingent at the NHL combine in Buffalo was very high on him, partly because of what he brings to the table skillwise, and partly because he fills an organizational need at LW, where he has had experience playing, in addition to center. The Flyers have insisted that they are not looking for a player to step right in and take a roster spot. But if you’re chosen in the top seven of the draft, would that be at least a reasonable expectation? The Flyers might even be able to trade down and still pick up Zacha, as he may slip out of the top 10.