The picture that accompanies this post is from preseason play...in 2016. That’s how long Jakub Zboril has been around at this point.
The Bruins selected the Czech defenseman 13th overall in the 2015 draft, their first of three consecutive picks. Barely 18 years old at the time, Zboril had just finished a monster season in the QMJHL.
Three years later, Zboril has a full professional season under his belt and is knocking on the NHL door.
His development hasn’t been the smoothest road. In his first junior season after the draft, he had a bit of a dip in production, registering 20 points in 50 regular season games (down from 33 the season before).
He rebounded in his last season in juniors, recording 48 points in 66 games. He’s a defenseman, so points shouldn’t be the only concern, but he’s known as a mobile defenseman with a great shot — so points are expected.
The question for Zboril was how his fleet-footed, puck-moving style would translate to the bigger, heavier AHL/NHL game.
Per Zboril, it was an adjustment. From the Boston Herald:
“I thought it would be like, you go in the corner, throw a hit, knock off a guy and take the puck and skate away,” he said. “But I realized when I turned pro, it’s not really possible anymore for me. Even though I’d throw a hit, the guys are stronger now so he’d stand up and skate away. Now I just do what I can being light on my skates and being more positional.”
Zboril improved as his first AHL season went on, growing in confidence and eventually finishing with 19 points in 72 games.
The question for Zboril going forward will be how he puts his game together at the NHL level. His pre-draft scouting report compared him to Keith Yandle, but with a little more snarl in his game.
He’s looked pretty sharp in preseason action this month as well. He has shown a willingness to take the body and has done a decent job moving the puck. While he hasn’t jumped off the scoresheet, you don’t necessarily want him to: the less you hear about a defenseman during a game, the more likely it is that he’s playing well.
Zboril’s in a tough spot right now. In all likelihood, there’s no room for him on the NHL roster to start the season. Adam McQuaid’s departure created a bit more space, but there are other guys fighting for a spot as well.
Zboril wouldn’t be served well being the 7th guy in Boston this season, watching most of the games from the press box. It’d be better for his development to play regularly in Providence, which is probably what will happen.
Unlike previous years, however, Zboril is likely to be the first man up.
This time, he’ll be ready.
The list so far:
10. Jeremy Swayman
9. Ryan Fitzgerald
8. Trent Frederic
7. Peter Cehlarik
6. Jeremy Lauzon
5. Jakub Zboril