Travis Zajac is closing in on some incredible company in the history of the New Jersey Devils.
With the 2021 NHL season finally beginning on Wednesday, it’s a good time to look ahead to what the season may bring. But, as this season begins, it’s also a great time to look back at one specific career.
This season could see Travis Zajac pass or join some of the greatest names in New Jersey Devils history in a number of statistical categories.
New Jersey made Zajac the 20th overall selection in the 2004 NHL Draft. That draft class, of course, is most notably remembers for the first two names called: Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Zajac enters the 2021 season ranking sixth in points (532), seventh in goals (195) and and seventh in assists (337) from his draft class.
He’s been a leader on the ice since the 2006-07 season, and was the Devils’ nominee for the NHL’s 2020 Masterton Memorial Trophy.
To put the length of Zajac’s career into some perspective, current teammate Nico Hischier was seven years old when Zajac made his NHL debut.
Let’s take a few moments to appreciate the historical significance of Zajac’s time with the Devils and look ahead to the company he could join this season.
Zajac (991) needs to appear in nine games to become the fourth player, and third skater, to appear in at least 1,000 regular season games with the franchise. He would join Ken Daneyko (1,283), Martin Brodeur (1,259) and Patrik Elias (1,240).
Zajac will likely become only the second player from his draft class to reach 1,000 regular season games played this season, joining Ovechkin.
The ninth game on the regular season schedule for the Devils is on Sunday, Jan. 31, in Buffalo.
Here are some other important numbers Zajac is chasing:
* Zajac (195) needs to score seven goals to tie Bobby Holík (202) for third place in franchise history, behind Elias (408) and John MacLean (347).
* Zajac (337) needs one assist to pass Scott Stevens (337) for sole possession of fifth place on the all-time franchise list. If he can produce 25 assists this season, Zajac would pass MacLean (354; 4th) and Scott Gomez (361; 3rd).
* Zajac (130) needs eight even-strength goals to tie Zach Parise for fourth place in franchise history. He would trail only Elias (279), MacLean (245) and Holík (158).
* Zajac (53) needs one power-play goal to tie Pat Verbeek (54) for fourth place in franchise history. Elias (113), MacLean (92) and Kirk Muller (69) hold the top three spots.
* Zajac (12) needs one short-handed goal to tie Adam Henrique for third place in franchise history. John Madden (17) and Elias (16) are first and second, respectively.
* Zajac (22) is tied with Henrique and Claude Lemieux for 13th place in franchise history in game-winning goals. Four GWGs this season would pass Bill Guerin (25) and put Zajac in a tie for tenth place on the franchise list with Brian Rolston and Scott Niedermayer.
* Zajac (147) needs nine power play points to tie Gomez for seventh place in franchise history.
* Zajac (1,761) is 19 shots on goal away from passing Scott Stevens for fourth in franchise history.