Welcome to our third player profile for the 2015 Draft. If you missed our second profile, you can check it out by clicking here. There will be several of these coming in the near future and leading up to the draft. Each profile will document a 2015-draft eligible player that the Panthers could pick based on their draft position, which we now know to be the 11th pick.
Today, we’ll highlight Pavel Zacha, a center on the Sarnia Sting who, despite injury and suspension, has made a considerable splash in the Ontario Hockey League this season. Keep reading for more on the NHL Central Scouting’s 8th ranked North American player.
Pavel Zacha is a center but can also play on the left wing, which makes him a viable option for the Panthers. Hailing from Brno, Czech Republic, the 18 year old forward has the chance to become the highest drafted Czech player since Jakub Voracek (selected 7th overall in the 2007 draft). Zacha is a big guy (6’3, 201 lbs), but he is also very quick, which allows him to be a powerful force on the ice.
This past season was Zacha’s first with the OHL and the Sarnia Sting. The Sting has produced admirable NHL players such as Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, and Nikolai Goldobin. Zacha only ended up playing 37 games with the Sting this season due to suspension, injury, and competition in the World Juniors. He was suspended twice in the first half of the season, and then, after sustaining an upper body injury against the Plymouth Whalers, Zacha was sidelined for another month or so. He also went on to play for the world juniors, which abbreviated his time with the Sting further. In spite of all of the distraction to his OHL gameplay, Pavel Zacha was still able to put up 16 goals and 18 assists, adding up to 34 points in 37 games. Before all of these injuries and suspensions, Zacha had 19 points in 21 games, which put him third in scoring among OHL rookies. If Zacha had played a few more games, it can only be assumed that he would have continued his hot streak.
Pavel Zacha has an abundance of experience playing for junior championship teams. In 2011-2012, he had 3 goals and 4 assists in 16 games for the U-16 Czech International Junior team. In 2012-2013, Zacha played in the U-17 International Juniors (6 G and 8 A in 14 GP), the U-18 International Juniors (1 G and 6 A in 12 GP), and the U-18 World Junior Championships (3 A in 5 GP). In the 2013-2014 season, Pavel Zacha played for the U-18 and U-20 teams in both the World Junior Championships and the International Juniors. He did not get any points on either of the U-20 teams, but he performed well on the U-18 teams. He scored 3 goals and 2 assists in 7 games for the World Junior Championship Team and he scored 6 goals and 5 assists in 18 games for the International Juniors team. Zacha played on the Czech Republic U-18 team this year in the World Junior Championships. The team itself did not perform as well as expected, but Pavel Zacha was a stand-out player. He scored a respectable 4 goals in 4 games. He also played for the U-20 team this season and scored 1 goal and 1 assist in 5 games. The team, again, did not play as well as expected, but Pavel Zacha’s speed and audacity brought an important aspect to the team.
Before joining the OHL, Pavel Zacha played for the Bili Tygri Liberec (which translates to Liberec White Tigers), a hockey club based in Liberec, Czech Republic. He joined the team in the 2010-2011 season and ended last year before joining the Sarnia Sting. He put up impressive numbers every season. In both the 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 seasons, Zacha was the youngest player on the team. Even so, he was impressive; He had 53 points in 45 games (20 G and 33 A) in the 2012-2013 season and he had 17 points in 10 games (6 G and 11 A) in the 2013-2014 season.
Pavel Zacha would definitely be a good fit for the Panthers and would add an element of speed to the team. The Panthers are in need of a winger, and Zacha, although a natural center, would be able to play on the left-wing. Various scouting reports have stated that, with the exception of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, Pavel Zacha may be the most NHL-ready forward that is available in the 2015 Draft. This is undoubtedly due to his size, speed, and great hands. He is known for his one-timers and has a pretty nasty slap shot too. His wrist shot is said to be one of the best in the 2015 Draft, due to its accuracy and velocity. He is also a physical player and is not afraid to stand up for his teammates. Zacha was the youngest player on the Bili Tygri Liberec for two consecutive years, which means that he is comfortable playing with older teammates and against older competitors. He would thrive with the Panthers’ strong teamwork aspect and would be able to be mentored by some of the older and more experienced players. If Zacha is drafted by the Panthers and joins the team in the upcoming season, I could see Jagr being an important role model and teacher for him. With the 11th pick in the draft this season, could the Panthers decide to pick up Pavel Zacha? I think so.
Stay tuned for more 2015 draft player profiles.