Sarnia Sting products have become an NHL Draft staple in past years with names like Stamkos, Yakupov, Galchenyuk and Goldobin coming off the board. Next in line to join that group is big Czech centreman Pavel Zacha.
Zacha completed his rookie season in Sarnia this past spring to mixed results. Injuries and suspensions took their toll on the opportunities afforded to him and his numbers reflected that. Sarnia finished seventh in the OHL's Western Conference. Zacha contributed 16 goals and 34 points to their campaign in 37 games before adding two goals and three points in the playoffs. His 0.92 points-per game average during the season was good for second on the team.
On the international circuit, Zacha has competed for the Czech Republic in both the U-18 and U-20 ranks. At the world U-18 championships he recorded five goals in five games. He chipped in with a goal and two assists for the Czech Republic in five games at the World Juniors.
Zacha brings an intriguing package to the table for teams at the top end of the draft board. He has one of the most exciting natural skillsets amongst the draft class. He has a 6-foot-3, 214 pound frame, plus-speed, a heavy shot and strong puck handling ability. When given the opportunity he can bully less physically gifted opponents to create scoring opportunities. He has scored goals at a good clip at every level and projects as a quality goal scorer at the next level.
While the upside Zacha brings is exciting, he does have some drawbacks. Despite having an NHL ready frame, there are some concerns about Zacha's long-term future as a top-six centre. Namely, does he possess the creativity necessary to carry a line down the middle? Teams that draft him as a centreman may wind up shifting him to the wing to make the most of his ability as a power forward. Moreover, there are complaints about his consistency from night-to-night. With a player of his size and skill, he has the potential to be a force each night. There have been question marks surrounding that side of Zacha's game to this point.
Zacha's skill, speed and size will be too much for teams in the top half of the draft. Expect him to be among the first dozen players taken in Sunrise.