The Bruins on Wednesday signed defenseman Jakub Zboril to a two-year, one-way contract with a $725,000 cap hit.
Zboril, the 13th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, could compete for playing time this season as the Bruins try to fill the void left behind by St. Louis Blues-bound Torey Krug.
Here are four things to know about the 23-year-old Czech up-and-comer Zboril, who has a prime opportunity in front of him.
He could end up playing a role this season.
While Zboril could be tasked with helping to compensate for Krug’s absence, don’t expect him to be a savior right away.
“Torey Krug and Jakub Zboril are not comparable players,” The Boston Globe‘s Matt Porter wrote. “Krug is an upper-echelon defenseman who just got capital-P Paid. Zboril has played two NHL games.”
Porter does, however, believe that Zboril “could have his first sniff at a long-term NHL role.” He said Zboril will compete for minutes on a Boston blue line that has yet to re-up Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk.
Depending on what happens before, during, and after the arbitration hearing scheduled next Tuesday for Grzelcyk, Porter wrote, Zboril would slot into the top of a left-side depth chart that could include Chara, Jeremy Lauzon, John Moore, and Urho Vaakanainen.
The Patriot Ledger’s Mike Loftus wrote that Zboril is expected to compete for a job with Vaakanainen. Zboril was with the Bruins during their time in the Eastern Conference playoff bubble but didn’t see any game action.
Once the Bruins were eliminated, they loaned Zboril to his hometown team, Brno Kometa of the Czech League. He’s played two games there.
He’s come on strong in the AHL.
Zboril has impressed overall in his three years while sharpening his craft with AHL Providence, putting up 19 points in each season – including a total of 46 assists over that span.
He posted AHL career highs for assists (16) and plus-minus (20) in 58 games this past season.
Providence coach Jay Leach said the 6-foot, 200-pound Zboril was one of his best players, noting that he came on strong last season.
“The last 12 games or 15 games, [he] became probably our best defenseman overall,” Leach said. “His ability to move the puck cleanly, really, there’s not many who can do it at our level.”
Porter noted that Zboril was paired with AHL veteran Josiah Didier. Leach said Didier’s “competitive juices wore off on Z,” adding that “before you knew it, he was a real force down low.”
The Bruins were initially hoping to trade up before they drafted him in 2015.
When the Bruins selected Zboril back in 2015, their first priority was to move up even further in the draft and potentially garner a top-five pick.
“We were ready if (general manager Don Sweeney) couldn’t move the picks, we were ready to make the pick and get the guy we wanted,” said Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky at the time.
That player ended up being Zboril, who was the first of three consecutive picks the Bruins made, at 13, 14, and 15. The team also selected Brandon Carlo in that draft, at No. 37 overall, as well as Lauzon at No. 52.
He was described as smart, fleet-footed, and very sound positionally.
Elite Prospects describes Zboril as a “smart, fleet-footed two way defenseman that plays to his strengths in all three areas of the ice.”
The site said Zboril “doesn’t aim to impress,” yet he “does all of the little things right and plays with an edge.” They also refer to him as “very sound positionally,” “a smooth skater with lots of energy to burn,” and “not afraid to lay the body or take a hit to make the play.”
“Could end up being that home-run pick in the 2015 NHL Draft,” the site said at the time.
After appearing in two games for the Bruins in 2018-19, Zboril admitted he wasn’t quite ready for that level of competition, but now it seems as though he’s fine-tuned his game and could potentially be more prepared for an increased role.
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