Nation Network Prospect Profiles: #30 Pavel Zacha

To be completely honest and up front, I think we’ve underrated Pavel Zacha fairly significantly. The massive Czech centreman fell well short of lofty expectations in his first full season in North America, but has still garnered enough recognition within the scouting community to get top-10 consideration in 2015.

Join us after the jump to explore one of 2014-15’s biggest statistical disappointments that could still turn out to be very, very good.

Bio:

  • Age: 17.45 years old at start of season. Born April 6, 1997
  • Birthplace: Brno, Czech Republic
  • Frame: 6’3, 210 lbs
  • Position: C
  • Draft Year Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
  • Accomplishments: 2014 World U18 Championship Silver Medal, 2015 OHL First All-Rookie Team

Stats:

GP ES G ES A1 ES A2 ES Pts ES Pts/GP ES GF% ES GF% Rel TmG% TmPts% AA Pts/GP EA Pts/GP Adj Pts/GP
37 10 5 4 19 0.51 59.0% 10.0% 12.0% 25.6% 0.84 0.99 0.90
  • TmG% = Percentage of team goals a player scored in that player’s games played
  • TmPts% = Percentage of team goals a player registered points on in that player’s games played
  • AA Pts/GP = Age adjusted points per game
  • EA Pts/GP = Era and league adjusted points per game
  • Adj Pts/GP = Age, era, and league adjusted points per game
PCS% 2014 PCS Pts/82 2014 PCS% 2015 PCS Pts/82 2015
50.0% 25.6 15.0% 41.0
PCS Most NHL GP PCS Highest Pts/GP
Ron Francis Ron Francis
Gary Roberts Ryan Getzlaf
Scott Hartnell Corey Perry

Scouts:

Draft rank:

NHL CSS ISS FutureConsiderations HockeyProspect Pronman McKeen’s McKenzie Button
8 (NA) 10 15 7 11 6 6 24

From Curtis Joe, EliteProspects:

Pavel Zacha is an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to make a significant impact on the game. He can play physical, but is at his best when using his high-end offensive abilities, such as his shot, stickhandling, and footspeed, to generate numbers in the opposition’s end of the ice. All-in-all, Zacha is a lethal weapon that can be depended upon to create, and finish, dangerous scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.

From Future Considerations:

The top Czech prospect for the 2015 draft…a big boy who is pretty physical for his age…he will hit you because that’s what he does…goes hard to the net and is relentless on the forecheck, which can be a scary sight for the opposing defensemen…has a strong shot that is both hard and accurate… good one-timer…prefers a shot to a pass…willing, but immature game defensively…goes back to defend the crease and knows how to use the stick in the defensive zone…good on PK where he gets his frame into lanes and just clears the puck when he gets the chance…patient player with good vision, soft hands and the ability to make one-on-one dekes…strong skater with good balance, but needs to get faster. 

From Craig Button, TSN:

A very good skating, hard driving player who wants to score. He has more of a winger’s mentality with respect to shooting and driving the net rather than a centre’s balance between playmaking and shooting. He’s determined but he projects as a winger in my estimation because of that dynamic.

Our Take:

On raw tools alone, it’s easy to see why so many teams covet Pavel Zacha. He’s huge, he’s physical, he’s fast, he’s got excellent hands and puck skills, and his shot is fantastic. He can be a human highlight reel at times, which makes his relatively ineffective 2014-2015 OHL season all the more puzzling.

Zacha’s toolkit is bordering on elite, and though his defense isn’t a strong suit, even that is something he’s demonstrated a willingness to improve. His skating is excellent in general and coupling it with monster size and a physical inclination makes him a devastating hitter, and there aren’t many players with puck skills or a shot as good as Zacha’s. But at just 34 points in 37 OHL games, his production is very mediocre for a potential first round target, let alone a borderline top-10 guy.

Per PCS, comparable players in terms of production, age, and size made the NHL at just 15% of the time and tended to have middle-six upside. Both are pretty meager numbers for a guy you want to draft in either the first or the second round, but we also see there are some pretty high end offensive talents in Zacha’s cohort. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in particular both fit this mold, though both absolutely exploded offensively the very next season.

Perry too is an interesting comparable as he was unbelievable as a 16-year old, only decent at 17, then unbelievable at 18 again. Zacha’s 16-year old season was extremely impressive given his age in the Czech men’s league, and has just two direct comparables: Magnus Paajarvi and Tomas Kubalik. Neither are really greatly comparable though, as Zacha scored at between roughly triple and quadruple the rate of both.

If we expand our definition of “similar” like we did with Sebastian Aho, we also see that Jaromir Jagr was fairly similar at 16 too, but Jagr had 10 more points in his 16-year old year in one more game than Zacha did.

Looking at Zacha’s pre-2014 resume lines up much closer with his toolkit than his most recent OHL season does, and we also have some explanations as to why Zacha’s OHL season was so underwhelming from a statistical point of view. Not only did he deal with two suspensions early on, but he also missed time playing in the World Juniors, and then suffered a significant upper body injury in the latter half of the year. Putting it all together, you get the picture of a kid who was never able to make that much needed adjustment to North America, and has much more to give.

Our consensus had Zacha ranked 30th, though I’m much, much higher on the kid than the others that voted. His 16-year old year was great. The eye test is great. His 17-year old year was pretty mediocre but there are rational explanations for that, and there’s a precedent for similar players turning out great. If a team likes his combination of raw skill, massive size, high-end skating, and nasty physical play enough, they could quite conceivably reach for Zacha inside the top-10.

And despite iffy numbers, that’s probably not too much of a stretch.

  • SEER

    He has a lot more question marks than a lot of the other names that have appeared in multiple top-ten lists, but 30th is a surprise.

    When I read reports about Zacha, he often strikes me as this year’s closest comparable to Virtanen. So here’s hoping that he’s not a 30th overall talent!