(Photo Credit: Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

By: Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On X / Twitter @adbblue

During the 2022-23 off-season, Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney sent Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Pavel Zacha in a one-for-one deal. Thus far, the transaction is one of the best Sweeney has ever made. Zacha set career highs in goals, assists, and points last season with a line of 21-36-57. 

Beyond the point production, though, the former sixth-overall pick has given the Bruins much more. He can do anything on the ice well, which has turned him into one of the league’s most versatile players. 

Offensively, Zacha is valuable because he has the ability to play both wing and center, which he’s done multiple times. He plays both positions effectively, and his offensive production sees no change. Having a player who can do that allows a coach to mix and match his lineup, which we saw last night in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. 

Head coach Jim Montgomery had Zacha play the left wing with Morgan Geekie at center and David Pastrnak on the right wing. Zacha playing the wing can spread out the scoring a little more, allowing a guy like Geekie to take advantage of an opportunity. Geekie has been hot as of late, scoring four goals in seven games.

Furthermore, he has great vision with the puck and distributes it well, and he has one heck of a shot. He also protects the puck well and has deceivingly good speed. Winning puck battles is another thing Zacha does well that often goes unnoticed in his game. In 30 games this season, he has a line of 8-13-21 and is fifth on the team in points. 

Defensively, the Brno, Czech Republic native is very reliable and has solid positioning. Additionally, he provides a strong presence on the back check and does a good job of staying with the opposing puck carrier. He has 13 takeaways this season, which helps turn defense into offense. At 6’4, Zacha also brings a presence. He isn’t overly physical but can be when he needs to, having 32 hits this season. He’s also been solid at the face-off dot when with a 52.3% win rate. 

Special teams are arguably where Zacha’s versatility is most prevalent. On the power-play, he plays a large role on the top unit as a puck distributor and brings a great net-front presence. He is averaging 3:11 of power play time on ice per game, which is fourth on the team, and has seven points. In a few instances this year, we’ve also seen him play the bumper role that Patrice Bergeron mastered for several seasons. 

On the Penalty kill, Zacha is averaging 2:02 of shorthanded time on ice per game, which is sixth on the team and second among forwards. He is outstanding and has a great stick at taking away passing lanes. The ability to play a considerable amount of ice time on both special teams units has a huge impact on the lineup. 

Zacha’s prowess to do many things so well and contribute in different areas makes him one of the greatest assets on the team. After not finding any consistency with the Devils for seven seasons, he has turned into one of the most versatile players in the league during his time with the Bruins.