When Travis Zajac was put on COVID protocol after the win against the Buffalo Sabres on January 31st, he was just two games away from his 1,000th career game. After the COVID outbreak two weeks later, he returned to the lineup against those same Sabres on Saturday in his 999th game. Following the loss, Zajac would finally start his 1,000th game when the Devils faced the Washington Capitals. But how long has Zajac been playing with the Devils, and what has been his career-defining moments?
How Long Has Travis Zajac Been Playing with the New Jersey Devils?
When Travis Zajac was drafted 20th overall in the 2004 Entry Draft, he didn’t play for the Devils right away. Before coming to play with the Devils, he finished his college career with the University of North Dakota. After playing with the Albany River Rats, Zajac’s debut game in the NHL would occur on October 6th, 2006, against the Carolina Hurricanes. However, he would earn no points that game. But as time went on, he managed an excellent 42-point season to start his career. Zajac’s best season was during the 2009-10 season when he had 67 points.
During the 2010s, Zajac would become one of the top players for the Devils. The Devils only made the playoffs twice in that decade, but he would still perform at a pretty good level during the seasons where the Devils didn’t make the playoffs. He had 40 points during five out of the ten seasons.
In the 2011-12 season, he was out for most of the year due to an Achilles injury. However, he then returned later to help the Devils in their 2012 Stanley Cup run. He averaged 14 points in those playoffs. Now 35 years old, he is still performing well. As of last year, he had a 25-point season before the pandemic ended the season. But what were his career highlights?
Zajac’s Most Defining Moments in His Career
After his first game against the Hurricanes, Zajac would score his first NHL goal in the very next game in a loss against the Dallas Stars the next night. When a pass by Zach Parise almost went out of play, Sergei Brylin grabbed the puck, headed toward the net, and then passed to Zajac who banked it in. While Zajac wasn’t necessarily a goal scorer for most of his career, he did manage to have unique goals that many people will remember. In a shootout on November 19th, 2009, Zajac lost the puck while trying to beat Pekka Rinne but managed to shoot the puck with his back turned, and it went in without Rinne noticing it.
During the 2012 Stanley Cup Final run, he made significant contributions to the team when the Devils needed to win games. In Game 6 of the first round against the Florida Panthers with the Devils down 3-2 in the series, the game headed into overtime. When the Devils went past the neutral zone, Ilya Kovalchuk reached Zajac, who put it behind Scott Clemmensen to win the Devils game.
It’s crazy how long Travis Zajac has been playing in the NHL. Ever since his debut, he’s become one of many players people identify with the New Jersey Devils in the past 15 years.
He’s become a fan favorite throughout the years he’s played and has had many beautiful memories of his career. For a player who has been around with the franchise since the Devils had Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Rafalski, it says a lot about the excellence this franchise can have with players who can be amazing like Travis Zajac.
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