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New Jersey Devils 2019-20 player profile: Pavel Zacha

August 18, 2019, 8:50 AM ET [28 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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With next to nothing happening in the hockey world, I've decided to take the plunge and write daily profiles for members of the New Jersey Devils.

I'll be commenting on the year each player just had as well as their projected role and expectations for 2019-20. I've written nine thus far, with Nico Hischier being the most recent player profiled.

Today we're going with Pavel Zacha.

Counting stats: 61 games played, 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists), 16:05 average time on ice

5v5 underlyings: 1.19 points/60, -0.40 CF% Rel, -1.63 GF% Rel, -4.46 xGF% Rel, 0.988 PDO

2018-19 review: Pavel Zacha was a mixed bag, especially relative to the hopes based on his draft slot. He was afforded plenty of opportunity with all the injuries the team had to deal with and – beyond a couple small stretches – certainly did not take advantage of it. At least not offensively. Zacha's play without the puck was much better. There were not many glaring breakdowns where his man was left unmarked for a goal, or plays made where you'd put the fault on him. Zacha took it up another gear on the PK, where he continued to prove his worth as one of the league's best shorthanded players (no, that's not an exaggeration).

Fun fact: 157 forwards have logged at least 200 minutes on the PK since 2016-17. Zero (0) have been better than Zacha at suppressing expected goals or scoring chances. In other words, he's as good as it gets at preventing them.

2019-20 outlook: I think Zacha is going to be one of the aces on the penalty kill – he should be anyway – and a Swiss Army Knife for John Hynes at even-strength. I would imagine he'll start at center and play lower in the lineup, however, he could be leaned on for extra minutes while defending leads late. He could also be moved up the lineup (say on Jack Hughes' left wing) to take key faceoffs or ease the defensive burden on him. Though I wouldn't bet on more than ~30 points, Zacha is going to be a fairly important and useful piece this season.

numbers via naturalstattrick.com and hockey-reference.com

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