For the first time in about a week, the vote on our community draft board wasn't even all that close. Sarnia center Pavel Zacha was your leader on the board, picking up an outright majority of the votes with 52 percent of the overall share to take the No. 12 spot.
A lot of the guys who we've profiled so far are ones for which we've seen their stock rise over the course of this season. Zacha is not one of those guys. Quite the contrary, maybe -- if he'd had the kind of season that a lot of people were probably expecting out of him back in September, there's a chance he'd be in the conversation with the guys who are expected to go in the top 5.
Instead, a number of things went wrong for the young Czech -- the first overall pick in the 2014 CHL Import Draft -- in his first year in America. He was suspended twice in the season's early going -- two games for a slew-footing incident, shortly thereafter followed by six games for boarding. And on top of that, an injury in January took him out for another few weeks.
Add to all of that the fact that his team wasn't very good, and that he took a couple of weeks away from Sarnia to play for the Czech Republic in the World Juniors around Christmas time, and all in all it was tough for Zacha to really get in much of a rhythm this year and play quite like so many people expected him to. The end result was 34 points in 37 OHL games, or an average of .92 points per game. (For comparison's sake, Lawson Crouse has received a lot of criticism for his offensive production this year, all while sitting at .91 points per game this year in the same league as Zacha and by most accounts being a better defensive player.)
Yet there are still a whole lot of folks out there who haven't been deterred much by Zacha's down-year in 2014-15, and who still see him as one of the very best options after that top-5 tier. Coincidentally enough, a lot of the reasons for that are similar to the reasons people believe in Crouse. Zacha's a big (6'3" and 210 pound) center (who's played some at left wing) who skates really, really well for a guy his size.
The big difference is that Zacha's game revolves a bit more around his skills on the puck. He can move the puck from zone to zone with ease and can carry it in and maneuver with it either in space or in tight, the way you don't often see from a player of his size and stature. Which is what really leaves some excited about his potential, even though most accounts suggest he'll need to work a bit on his game in the defensive end of the ice.
Of the guys in this range of the draft, who figure to be available when Ron Hextall takes the podium for the seventh pick, it's fair to classify Zacha as one of the riskier ones. It's possible that his relatively troubled first year in North America indicated that he may not be the player some think he can. And like we discussed with Crouse, it's just so hard to find and develop true power forward types, the way some project Zacha to be, in today's NHL.
But it's also possible that Zacha just had some bad luck with injuries and trouble adjusting to the North American game in his first year here, and that he can reign in his temper a bit so those suspensions die down. And when you consider the thought of a guy being able to play a power-forward style while also having the puck skills that Zacha has ... you can understand why some haven't backed down on their optimism on him. Especially after watching him in U18 world championships this past spring, where he scored five goals in five games.
The Inquirer noted during combine weekend that the Flyers did interview Zacha, and said that he is "high on the Flyers' radar". With what he brings to the table, if the team is leaning towards a forward at that seventh pick (or if Noah Hanifin and Ivan Provorov are both off the board), it wouldn't be too surprising to see them take Zacha. It wouldn't be a safe pick, but if they think that the immense potential some see in him can be realized, it wouldn't be a surprising one.
We'll add two names today and keep the poll running through the end of Sunday night. Enjoy your weekends.
Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL) - 35 G, 33 A in 57 GP
A dynamic offensive winger and natural goal scorer. Has great instincts and is able to quickly get into position for premium scoring chances; possesses an accurate release on his shot which he can get off in the blink of an eye. He always knows where his linemates are, and is a great passer; that being said, his individual puck possession play is incredible and sets him apart as an offensive player. He will need to work on defensive zone coverage and a slew of small details such as board battles, but Brock Boeser has a ton of elite-level scoring potential due to the way he can read, make, and finish plays.
Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John (QMJHL) - 5 G, 38 A in 46 GP
Zboril is relied upon in the QMJHL to play in all situations. He logs significant minutes on the powerplay and the penalty kill. He plays an all around game and uses his body effectively. His size doesn't necessarily mean he'll be able to translate that physical grittiness into the pros. ... In terms of his skating ability he is probably one of the best in the entire draft. Zboril can move fast, skating his way out of danger but also being able to join the rush offensively. In addition to this he's got an excellent shot. ... Not only does he possess a great shot he's also known for his vision on the ice. Making the point perfect pass and seeing how the play is going to develop. ... Zboril isn't particularly flashy, he plays well but doesn't stand out in any particular way.
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The 2015 BSH Community NHL Draft Board
- Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL)
- Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)
- Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) (45% of the vote)
- Mitch Marner, C/RW, London (OHL) (54%)
- Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA) (77%)
- Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon (WHL) (45%)
- Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL) (39%)
- Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS (Liiga) (41%)
- Zach Werenski, D, Michigan (NCAA) (35%)
- Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston (OHL) (31%)
- Kyle Connor, C/LW, Youngstown (USHL) (37%)
- Pavel Zacha, C/LW, Sarnia (OHL) (52%)
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As always, please use your vote below to answer the following question: If all of the players listed were available when the Flyers were on the clock, who would you want them to pick?