It's easy to forget that Pavel Zacha just turned 24 years old in early April. He already has six years of NHL experience under his belt and over 300 games played. During the 2020-21 NHL season, Zacha reached new heights in his career, as we saw him flourish in nearly every area of his game, depended on in all situations. Zacha has stepped into a noteworthy role providing offense and another threat at the Devils' disposal.
Here are Three Things: Pavel Zacha:
In the best year of his NHL career, Pavel Zacha was a player head coach Lindy Ruff could rely on in just about every situation on the ice. You'd find him both on the power play and the penalty kill, along with his regular shifts at 5-on-5 during any given game. He played both wing and center depending on player availability, neither slowing him down.
His 11 points with the man-advantage led the team this season, as did his five power-play goals. From playing at left-wing and center, Zacha excelled in nearly every category and provided a consistent offensive threat no matter where he was in the lineup.
Video: VERIZON TOP PLAYS | Pavel Zacha
There were two stretches of games that particularly stuck out this season, the first between Jan. 30 and Feb. 28 (which was interrupted by a COVID-19 pause). During that stretch, Zacha went on a 10-game point streak, providing four goals and eight assists, including a three-point night (one goal, two assists) against Buffalo on Feb. 25.
The second stretch of notable hockey came in closing out the season, his final games of the year where he averaged nearly a point per game. He put up 10 goals and six assists in the final 17 games of the season.
His dependability surprised none of his teammates, in particular the captain who saw this type of play developing out of Zacha from Day 1.
2. A Captain's Comments
At 3:29 of the first period against the Flyers in the final game of the season, Pavel Zacha scored the opening goal. It was his 17th goal of the season, the 17th goal in his 50th game played. It capped off not only his personal-best offensive year but also tied Miles Wood for the team-lead in goals.
Video: NJD@PHI: Zacha taps home dish to kick off scoring
If the breakout success by Zacha surprised anyone, that did not include the captain, Nico Hischier, who saw and believed in Zacha's talent from Day 1.
"It's just been fun watching him, he's a great player. I've known that since Day 1," Hischier said at his final post-game press conference of the year, the night Zacha scored his 17th goal. "When I got here like he's been always a great player and finally (the puck) goes in for him. He gets that confidence he needs, and he was always the player like that, that's my opinion. I'm really happy to see a season like that, and I know he will work hard and that he'll be even better next year.
"But for me, he was always a great player, no doubt about that."
3. A Car Guy
Who knew that sitting on the edge of a hotel room bed watching car videos on YouTube would create one of the most beloved friendships within the New Jersey Devils locker room?
Well, that's exactly how the friendship between Zacha and Jesper Bratt began. Bratt was on the Double Minor hotseat where he was asked about his friendship with Zacha. The two didn't know each other before the 2017-18 NHL season when Bratt was a rookie. During training camp, they hadn't even spoken. Then, they were paired together as roommates on their first road trip to Buffalo and the rest is history.
"It's actually kind of fun story," Bratt shared on his Double Minor episode, "we were both sitting down in the room, he was on his laptop, and I was on my laptop, and I kind of heard some, like cars and stuff in the background from his computer. I asked him what he was looking at and it was car videos.
"I switched my computer (around) to him, I was doing the exact same thing," Bratt continued the story, "We were kind of bonding right away with same interests and stuff, but it's kind of funny that we never spoke to each other at all before that."
We certainly must thank whoever paired up the two friends on that first road trip, otherwise we may have never been privy to one of the most popular friendships on the Devils team!