NEWARK, N.J. — New general manager Ray Shero is delivering on his promise to make the struggling New Jersey Devils a more exciting team.
The Devils filled a big need on offence Friday night, taking Czech centre Pavel Zacha with the sixth pick overall in the NHL draft and acquiring right wing Kyle Palmieri from the Anaheim Ducks for two draft picks.
The NHL announced the trade in a tweet. Shero, who replaced Lou Lamoriello after the season, said there is a slight holdup in the deal and it will probably become official Saturday.
Zacha has all the tools to help the Devils get back to the playoffs after missing them the past three seasons and four of five. He is big (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), an excellent skater, he can find the net and he can play two-way hockey. He had 16 goals and 18 assists in 37 games for the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League.
“Teams are looking for guys like that and he was a good pick for us at No. 6,” said Shero.
Zacha also plays with an edge. He was suspended twice in the juniors, once for slew-footing an opponent and again for a boarding penalty.
“I think I am physical and I intend to work hard this summer and in training camp and we’ll see if I can play in the NHL next year,” Zacha said in a telephone interview from the draft in Sunrise, Florida. “I’ll do everything I can.”
Zacha played 38 games for Liberec in the Czech Republic’s top League in 2013-14. He also represented his country in the world junior tournament.
The Devils have drafted a forward with five of its last six first-round selections: John Quenneville (2014), Stefan Matteau (2012), Jacob Josefson (2009) and Mattias Tedenby (2008). Defenceman Adam Larsson (2011) was the exception (First-round picks in 2010 and 2013 were traded).
New Jersey shipped the 41st overall pick in the draft and a third-round choice next year to Anaheim for Palmieri. The Devils acquired the 41st pick earlier this year in a deal that sent Jaromir Jagr to Florida.
The 24-year-old Palmieri had 14 goals in 57 games with the Ducks last season. He was born in Smithtown, New York, grew up in Montvale, New Jersey, and played collegiately at Notre Dame.