In wake of the 2016-17 NHL season, the Buffalo Sabres hosted the 2016 Prospects Challenge at the Harbor Center over the last few days and invited the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins to join them in evaluating the NHL’s future stars. Over the last few years, the Bruins have been making incremental moves in the direction of Stanley Cup contention, and they’ve been bringing some pretty respectable numbers to the table. Since the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, they’ve selected six first-round draft picks, one of them being defenseman Jakub Zboril.
Back in 2015, Boston managed to select three players in the first round, and they happened to have been selected all in a row: Jakub Zboril (No. 13), Jake DeBrusk (No. 14), and Zachary Senyshyn (No. 15). Senyshyn recently underwent a successful appendectomy on Sept. 4, so he didn’t participate in the Challenge, but both Zboril and DeBrusk did.
The selection of these three players was the first major move by Boston’s newest general manager, Don Sweeney, and it tells us that he takes digging for hidden gems quite seriously. With a year of fine tuning under their belts now, these three peas in a pod should start showing their true colors, and it’s already started at the 2016 Prospects Challenge.
One-On-One with Zboril
In fact, Zboril did a one-on-one interview with The Hockey Writers after the game against New Jersey on Sunday evening and said that Bruin’s head coach Claude Julien was quite pleased with the way he played.
Coach Julien was talking to me after the game – even at the development camp – he was talking to me about improving my habits. Not letting guys in the corner beat me to the net, and just to be more aggressive, and compete harder. Today after the game, he talked to me and said I had a very good game, and he liked the way I showed my habits today, and so I feel pretty glad for that. – Jakub Zboril
Zboril saw a ton of ice time in Sunday’s game, and that’s to be expected of the six foot one, 185-pound defenseman from Brno, Czech Republic. He’s been taking on new responsibilities over the last year, and this year it’s showing. During the 2015-16 season, Zboril was placed into more of a shutdown style-of-play with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, which meant he took on less of the offensive opportunities.
When talking to The Hockey Writers about why his role had changed, Zboril had this to say:
I don’t know what I heard. Maybe Boston wanted to see me in another role, not just as an offensive defenseman, but to show more of a defensive side from me too, and it changed. I scored lots of goals, fewer assists, but I think I still had a pretty good year. I had ups and downs, but still, it’s a good experience, and it moved me forward. Right now when I play, I actually have more ice time than I did with Saint Johns. I could show more of myself, and I felt very good, and it actually motivated me after last season when we lost. Some people just call it fail, and it motived me in the summer to work really hard. I got in better shape, and it just moved me forward. – Jakub Zboril
Zboril holds a specific kind of confidence when he carries himself on the ice, as well as in the way he communicates with others. That combined with his winning attitude, and great sense of humor is making him a force not to be reckoned with. When asked who of the three (himself, DeBrusk, or Senyshyn) was going to win the race to the NHL first, he responded with a big smile on his face, that it would be him.
I think I just want to make it more than them. Everyone’s going to tell you the same thing. I’m not going to say about someone, he wants it more than me right… I think I want it more than him. – Jakub Zboril
Boston had a great performance at the 2016 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, as they won both of their games. In a week from now, their main rookie camp will start, and Julien believes this year’s camp could become even more fruitful for some of their prospects. With five key players gone to the World Cup of Hockey, the rare opportunity for early exposure to primary players has increased dramatically. Perhaps this could be Zboril’s chance to cement his first place position in the race to the NHL.