By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
NEWARK, N.J. – Zajac plays in NHL preseason game. Big deal, right? Well, that all depends on the first name.
For former Trenton Devils and current New Jersey Devils forward Darcy Zajac, tonight’s game against the New York Rangers is huge, as it’s his first ever preseason game.
The 26-year-old, brother of star centerman Travis Zajac, is in his fourth season in the Devils organization, and although he’s likely ticketed for AHL Albany to start the year, just getting this opportunity meant a lot.
“For me, it’s a morale boost,” Zajac told ECHL.com at the morning skate.
“It’s been a long couple of years, and I’m not getting any younger. But…I keep making strides forward. Somebody’s always watching, and you can’t take a day off. You’ve got to be ready for when they call.”
After spending four years at the University of North Dakota, Zajac split his first full pro season in 2010-11 between Albany and Trenton. He played in 32 ECHL games that year, potting six goals while adding 17 assists.
He reflected on his time in the “E” on Monday, saying it taught him about the somewhat unpredictable nature of professional hockey.
“Looking back on it now, (I learned) that anything can happen,” Zajac said. “Regardless of what league you’re in, you just need to come to the rink with the right attitude and just prepare the same way. You have to keep trying to make strides forward and good things can happen.”
For Darcy Zajac, his game isn’t entirely based on numbers. Unlike his brother Travis or even his younger brother, Kelly, who also played for the ECHL club in Trenton, Darcy plays more of a two-way game, and may be closer to getting an opportunity at the game’s highest level than the scoresheet might indicate.
“There’s days when you know that you’re close,” he said. “You see guys going up and down to the AHL, and now guys going from the AHL up and down. Here I am getting my first exhibition game, and it’s been a huge transition. This is a big step. But I don’t think I would have been able to do it without playing down there first or playing in the minors. Getting my opportunity now is part of that step.”