Jakub Zboril in 2022
Key stats: 10 GP, 0G, 3A, 3PTS
Other stats: 15:44 ATOI, 58.6 CF% (5v5), 58 oZS% (5v5), 62.6 CF/60 (5v5)
Reader rating: 6.1
Writer rating: 7
It hasn’t exactly been easy sledding for Jakub Zboril.
He’s a guy who, for many people, will forever be defined by his draft year (even though he was picked in line with many pre-draft rank- you know what, never mind).
His development has been slow, relatively steady, but stunted by injuries - and this year was no exception.
After playing what was inarguably the strongest NHL-level hockey of his career at the start of last season, an awkard collision in a December game in Nashville resulted in a torn ACL for Zboril.
Game over, and a tough break for the kid.
While we must consider the “small sample size” effect, there’s plenty of reasons to be positive about Zboril’s play heading into next season.
When given a chance to break into the lineup early last season, he held onto his spot until the injury took it away, beating out the likes of Mike Reilly and Connor Clifton to remain in the lineup.
Zboril’s involvement in the offense was more noticeable, his skating looked more confident, and he appeared a bit more willing to take the body or put in work along the boards.
His possession/rate metrics at even strength were the best of his young career, with his CF/60 in particular miles above his two previous years.
Yes, you’d prefer a close-to-top-ten pick to be a bit further along in his development at this point, but defensemen can be notoriously slow to develop; if Zboril can recover fully from his injury and pick up where he left off, the Bruins’ patience may start to pay off.
However, it’s fair to say that’s a big “if.” ACL reconstructions aren’t exactly a walk in the park, and while Zboril has had plenty of time to recover, even a lost half-step could be very problematic.
Still, he should have plenty of chances to prove himself to Jim Montgomery, especially with fellow left-shot Matt Grzelcyk out for the start of the season and other left-shot Mike Reilly possibly on the trading block.
The Bruins clearly think there are brighter days ahead for Zboril, as the team inked him to a two-year contract extension back in the spring.
If Zboril can return at 100% and continue his upward trend, he’ll give the Bruins more options on the back-end, both in terms of who to play and who may become expendable as a result.
At this point, it appears unlikely that Zboril will become the top-pairing defenseman you’d like a 13th-overall pick to be.
But if nothing else, the early part of last season showed that there’s still plenty of upward mobility in Zboril’s game - so a little optimism may be warranted.