Pavel Zacha hopes he can help the New Jersey Devils score more, but his first goal is to crack their lineup out of training camp.
The 18-year-old center, who was the No. 6 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, signed a three-year contract with an average annual value of $925,000 on Tuesday.
"It's my goal for this season to play in the NHL, and now I just have to show everyone I can make the team and I'll do everything for that [chance]," Zacha said. "Camp is coming up [in September] and I am going there and I am going to get ready now for it. I've never been in a full camp of the NHL before; I was just at Devils [development] camp [in July]."
New Jersey's 176 goals last season ranked 28th in the NHL.
Zacha had 34 points (16 goals) and 56 penalty minutes in 37 games with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League last season. If he doesn't make the Devils out of training camp, he likely will return to Sarnia.
"It's an amazing feeling," Zacha said. "Right after I was drafted by New Jersey, that was the best feeling, and now signing a pro contract is probably the second-best feeling I've had in my life. It's a step forward to being in the NHL. It was always my dream, and I am getting closer to it."
Had the Devils and Zacha not agreed on a contract by Saturday, Zacha would not have been eligible to play in the NHL this season.
"The whole time, I trusted my agent and he told me that everything would be OK," Zacha said. "I had some good talks in Jersey with GM [Ray Shero], so I felt it was just a [matter of] time when it would [happen]. I'm really happy that the deal was done now and I can focus on playing hockey, and I'm really excited for camp coming up."
Zacha, a native of the Czech Republic, grew up idolizing fellow Czech and Devils forward Patrik Elias, who made his NHL debut during the 1995-96 season, before Zacha was born.
"I'll probably call him," Zacha said. "He called me right after the draft and talked, so now I'd like to call him and just talk to him a little bit."