As August turns to September, hockey fans are reminded that the NHL regular season is right around the corner. With that said, there a number of items on a team’s agenda before they take the ice in October.
One of those items is Rookie Camp, and the Boston Bruins are hosting theirs beginning on September 7. The B’s will have a plethora of young talent on display at the forward position, but the organization’s rookie defensemen are ready to shine as well.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Bruins’ defensive core is, for the most part, already established. Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo are expected to once again anchor the first pair while Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid will likely resemble the second line of defense. Kevan Miller’s ability to play both sides of the ice have him destined to play the left side while Charlie McAvoy makes his regular season debut on the right side of the Bruins’ third defensive pairing.
That does not mean that some of Boston’s top prospects are left without a shot at cracking the lineup. Three of the aforementioned defensemen either already are or will be on the wrong side of 30 by the end of the season. Keeping that in mind, as well as the fact that injuries are to be expected throughout a grueling 82-game schedule, the blueliners invited to the Bruins’ Rookie Camp will be bidding for a role as a seventh defenseman.
Jakub Zboril is widely considered the best Bruins’ defensive prospect who has yet to see NHL play. Having appeared in 144 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, the 13th overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft scored 28 goals and assisted 66 others. He has a rating of plus-31 across three seasons with the team.
Zboril has been apparent on the stat sheet during the postseason as well, solidifying his reputation as an offensive defenseman a team can depend upon. The Brno-native has scored six goals and 14 assists in 38 QMJHL playoff games.
During the 2013-14 season, Zboril appeared in 36 games for his hometown team, Kometa Brno, in the Czech Extraliga. He scored five goals while assisting 16 others and accumulating 57 penalty minutes. Three of those five goals came on the power play.
Backed by his statistics, the 20-year-old is a force to be reckoned with offensively. While he is a strong skater who knows how to get the puck through the neutral zone, a great number of his goals come when he sneaks down to the top of the face-off circle. The left-shot defenseman looks more like a forward with his quick release. A word to goalies everywhere: even if you get in the way of one of Zboril’s shots there is a strong possibility that the puck will continue its flight into the net.
Defensively, Zboril is not afraid to throw his six-foot-two, 185-pound frame around the rink. He totaled 174 penalty minutes through three seasons in the QMJHL. Meanwhile, his speed and agility allow him to keep forwards contained. Barring his performance throughout the month of September, fans in Boston should expect to see Zboril in a Bruins jersey this season even if it is not on a nightly basis.
Having played four impressive seasons with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL, Jeremy Lauzon is another Bruins prospect looking to break into the NHL this year. During the 2016-17 campaign, the 52nd overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft managed five goals and 23 assists while maintaining a plus-minus rating of plus-25 in 39 games.
Throughout the 161 games prior to last season, the Quebec-native scored 30 goals and assisted 72 others. He accumulated 232 penalty minutes during that time while managing a plus-56 rating thanks to a plus-40 performance during the 2015-16 campaign.
Known more for his presence in the defensive zone, Lauzon’s five goals and nine assists in 14 postseason games last year impressed many. He was injured during the regular season making his performance throughout the Huskies’ playoff run even more exciting for fans of the organization. This should also sound encouraging to Bruins fans looking for Lauzon to break into the NHL.
Ultimately, it is more likely for Zboril to get the call from GM Don Sweeney than Lauzon, at least for the first stretch of the 2017-18 season. Zboril’s speed puts him ahead of his counterpart. One would think that, after a shortened season last year, Lauzon will see time in Providence before he laces up his skates at TD Garden.
In the end, the decision is ultimately up to Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins’ coaching staff. They will most definitely be keeping their eyes on both Zboril and Lauzon, looking for signs in both players that they are indeed NHL-ready.