(Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lauren Spencer | Follow Me on Twitter: @laurenspenc

During the off-season, the Bruins had a lot of questions about their forward depth. Specifically, there was now a large hole in the center after the departures of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Those two players left a considerable gap to be filled as the team looked for a new 1C and 2C for the first time in twenty years. Now that the season has started, Bruins fans can see that Pavel Zacha has stepped up into that 1C role and is earning his top-line status.

After the Bruins traded Erik Haula for Zacha in the summer of 2022, there had been a previous narrative surrounding him and his disappointing offense. However, during his first season with the Bruins, he put together a career-best year, scoring 21 goals and 36 assists. With a points total of 57, he far surpassed his previous career high of 36 points in 2021-2022. This season, the Bruins will be looking for him to capitalize further on his offensive skills, potentially reaching 25-30 goals.

Zacha has had a successful start to the season, even if the score sheet does not reflect it. Zacha has one goal and two assists in the first seven games, but has been an essential playmaker on the ice. So far, his faceoff win percentage is 53.7%, much improved over his win percentage of 45.3% from last season. With the departures of faceoff experts Bergeron and Tomas Nosek, the Bruins needed help in this area. Despite the small sample size, Zacha is doing his part to improve and hang with the best of them.

Zacha has also had a strong defensive start to the year. With the exception of his struggles clearing the puck during the final penalty kill against the Ducks on Thursday night, Zacha has shown flashes of solid defensive play so far this season. He showed good speed in San Jose, preventing the Sharks from capitalizing on a two-on-one breakaway. While the Sharks are not an offensive juggernaut, the extra hustle Zacha has demonstrated so far is an excellent start to his season.

Also against San Jose, Zacha had a great maneuver in the second period that allowed him to keep the puck in the offensive zone. After battling with two Sharks players for possession near the blue line, Zacha performed a tricky spin move to keep the puck with him. Putting in the extra effort this year, even when up by multiple goals, is something that the Bruins will have to focus on all season.

Zacha’s production so far this season has been positive following his 4x$4.75 million contract extension in January. As he is signed until the end of the 2026-2027 season, Zacha will continue to be a fixture in this changing Bruins lineup. With many players having deals that expire at the end of this season, having Zacha locked up is good for the future of the team. If Zacha and his fellow countryman David Pastrnak can channel the chemistry they developed last year, Zacha will be an offensive and defensive threat whenever he’s on the ice.