It’s not every day an NHL Draft eligible can turn to a former National Hockey League standout for guidance, but Sarnia Sting forward Pavel Zacha was afforded that luxury.
And it came before coming over to North America.
Zacha, a native of Brno, Czech Republic, enlisted the help of former NHLer Petr Nedved.
The now 18-year-old played 38 games for Liberec in the Czech Republic’s top League in 2013-14, where he was mentored by former NHL player 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.
"He would help me in practices and talk to me in the locker room," Zacha said. "I was young and to have a guy like Petr Nedved come over to you, sit down and ask if I had any questions was something I'll never forget.
"We talked about the style of play in North America, how to shoot it during a game from all areas and what decisions I needed to make quickly. It wasn't so much preparation as it was on-ice stuff. How to make plays and how to shoot from the corner."
Zacha then decided to join the Sting this season after being named the first overall selection in the CHL Import Draft by Sarnia.
He’ll follow in the footsteps of other Sting imports such as Nail Yakupov and Nikolay Goldobin.
Yakupov, taken with the second pick of the 2010 import draft, was the first overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft, while Goldobin, picked 36th in 2012 by Sarnia, was selected 27th overall by the San Jose Sharks in 2014.
The Sting also saw Alex Galchenyuk get drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2012 and Steven Stamkos go first overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008.
"They had a lot of good players who are now playing well in the NHL like Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal Canadiens) and Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)," Zacha said. "I think each of them was the best player in the CHL at the time."
Born: April 6, 1997
Hometown: Brno, Czech Republic
Team: Sarnia (OHL)
CSS Rank: 8th among North American Skaters
FC Rank: 15th overall
ISS Rank: 10th overall
Red Line Rank: 10th overall
Daniel Deschenes of Future Considerations: “All the makings of a future top line NHLer winger, Zacha has really grown as a player as the season has progressed even with missing some games. He came into the league looking a bit lost and disinterested at times, but has become a solid prospect; dominant on many nights. Creating many chances with his size, vision, speed and heavy shot.”
Dennis MacInnis of International Scouting Service: “Has a lot of maturing still to do and that is something that actually works more towards the exciting potential he could one day actually meet and possibly exceed.”
Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting: “He's got high-end skill and is an excellent competitor; he plays an excellent two-way game. In the game I saw him play he broke up a few rushes in his own end and transitioned up the ice really well. He's physical and solid on his skates and can separate guys from the puck.”
As a lead-in to the 2015 NHL Draft, CalgaryFlames.com will outline potential targets for the Calgary Flames with the 15th overall pick in the first round on draft day on June 26th.