Boston Bruins 2022-23 Player Grades: Pavel Zacha

There were very few moves by Boston Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney last offseason. Tight cap space did not allow many additions from the outside, but the opportunity to move a contract for another was there. Sweeney took advantage of that and pulled off a trade on July 13, the first day of free agency. He acquired forward Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils for Erik Haula, who was a big part of the Bruins’ second-half turnaround as the second-line center.

Boston Bruins Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Jeremy Swayman Bruins Player Grades
Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Jeremy Swayman (The Hockey Writers)

Acquiring Zacha turned out to be one of the better moves last off-season. He filled a top-six role with Brad Marchand out to begin the season recovering from offseason double hip surgery and the Bruins were hoping to get him to break out, something that the sixth overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft failed to do in New Jersey. Overall, this turned out to be a very good move during the 2022-23 season.

Pavel Zacha’s 2022-23 Regular Season

When David Krejci returned in August after spending last season playing in his home country of Czechia, first-year coach Jim Montgomery put Zacha and Krejci on the second line with David Pastrnak. That trio found an instant connection and formed one of the top second lines in the league. It was easy to see why Zacha set a number of career highs. He set highs in goals (21), assists (36), and points (57), and had a plus/minus of plus-26 in all 82 games. He had three goals and eight points on the power play and finished with three game-winning goals, all while averaging just over 16 minutes a night. 

Pavel Zacha Boston Bruins
Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He won 45.2% of his faceoffs and played well as the second-line center during the season. He got moved to the middle two weeks into the season when Krejci suffered an upper-body injury against the Detroit Red Wings in late October, then he finished out the final two-plus weeks there when Krejci again was injured before the playoffs. He scored two goals on April 8, including his 20th of the season in a 2-1 win over the Devils at the TD Garden. He became a player that played in all situations for Montgomery and one of the steadier players for the Black and Gold.

Zacha’s Increased Playoff Role

It was more of the same for Zacha against the Florida Panthers in their first-round playoff series playing in the middle with Krejci missing three of the seven games and Zacha filling in the top-six and playing well without both Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. He finished the series with six assists, including one shorthanded in Game 6 when he beat the Panthers’ defense behind the goal line in their zone to a loose puck and fed a wide-open Jake DeBrusk who scored for a 5-4 lead midway through the third period in a game which the Bruins lost 7-5.

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Zacha won 48% of his faceoffs and had 15 shots on the net against Florida, but he had the giveaways (four) like the rest of his teammates, which ultimately ended up being the difference in the series for the Bruins.

Zacha Is a Future Top-Six Center in Boston

When Sweeney acquired Zacha from New Jersey, he was a restricted free agent (RFA), but both sides agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract on Aug. 11 to avoid arbitration. That turned into a good deal for both sides and following a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 14, the Bruins announced that they signed Zacha to a four-year, $19 million extension with an acreage annual value (AAV) of $4.75 million. Locking him up gives the Bruins a top or middle-six option down the middle for the future.

Is he going to be able to handle that role going forward? Time will tell, but his break out 2022-23 season gives hope and the Black and Gold will need him to continue to produce as he did this season. At 26 years old, he’s just hitting his prime and can be very beneficial to the Bruins as they build the next core over this upcoming offseason and in the future.

Grade: A-

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