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Should Pavel Zacha Play in the NHL this year?

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One of the most common questions John Hynes has been fielding this offseason is "What does Zacha need to show you to make the NHL roster?" I take a look at the pros and cons of if he makes the Devils roster this year.

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Hello, all.

As Gerard mentioned yesterday, one of the biggest stories of the offseason has been what the younger guys of the system will have to do to get time in the NHL. Tom Gulitti asked that question to Hynes with specific mention of Pavel Zacha in his Q&A Wednesday. Then yesterday, had a brief story on Zacha being eager to prove he is ready. There's also a bit about his facial hair there if you are into that kind of thing.

There are several things to consider when answering this question:

What is Best for His Development?

This is a topic that could have a much more substantive debate on some other forum other than a High School teacher scrounging together enough material for an article on a Thursday night. But as just a brief taste of what rookie years look like, here are the 100 best seasons by Goals Created per game for rookies since 1992. Below is a histogram of how many players of each age were on that list.

Rookie Seasons

According to QuantHockey the average age for a forward is right around 22.5 with a median at about 22. So half of the rookies are younger than 22 and half are older. On this list of the best rookie seasons, there are 52 younger than 22 years old and 48 older. So basically what I'm saying is that there is absolutely no discernible pattern and "ruining development shouldn't be overthought. It's a case-by-case basis.

The Matter of the Contract

The last time we discussed the Entry-Level slide on ILWT it was in relation to Stefan Matteau who played in an abridged season and thus was subject to the pro-rated Entry-Level slide limit of 6 NHL GP for a 48 game season before he would need "activate" his contract. This is a full season which means that the limit for the slide is 10 games. A fuller explanation can be found at HockeysCap or if you prefer the primary source then navigate to page 347 of the NHL CBA.

What's Best for the Team

It's been mostly facts up until now so I'm going to infuse some of my own opinion here. I would like to utilize the contract slide on Zacha. This is a team that is clearly in a rebuilding stage and the contract slide allows us to hold on to a potentially elite talent for an extra year (he'd be an RFA in 2018 as opposed to 2017) for under $1 million. For a team that is trying to cultivate and accumulate young talent, hanging on to rookie contracts for a long time could be a boon for the future of the franchise.

Given that I would prefer to utilize the contract slide, I don't see the benefit of a 9-game tryout. I don't think that is a large enough sample size to assess such a vital young talent. That being said, if we want to use him as forward depth and give him the occasional 1- or 2-game callup to contribute and get a taste of NHL play I wouldn't mind that. Point being. I want him to see the NHL for him -- not for me or the team.

Your Thoughts

What do you think the Devils should do with Pavel Zacha?