By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The internet has had their say, and Harry Sinden has already tried to bail out Bruins general manager Don Sweeney for their selections, but Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach isn't throwing in the towel on 2015 first-round picks Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril.
In fact, Leach loved what he saw from both players prior to the suspension (and subsequent cancellation) of the AHL season.
"We were very excited for where Zach was, [and was] going through that stretch the last five, six weeks," Leach, who spoke with the media via Zoom on Monday, said. "I think we’ve talked about Seny quite a bit and sometimes I think — our staff included — you tend to forget how young some of these players are. He just turned 23. Players develop in different ways and on different timetables."
Prior to the pause-and-cancellation, Senyshyn's Providence timetable saw him on a line with Brendan Woods and Brendan Gaunce, where the P-Bruins built an "up-and-down" line were pleased with his pace and ability to drive offense in a grittier way.
"Seny was starting to score, was getting to the dirty areas and they were a heavy forechecking line," Leach offered. "He was finding an identity. I think we all would somewhat speculate that was his identity: Being a big guy that could get to places quick and get to the front of the net. It just seemed like he was starting to put it together.
"What did I see? I saw speed, I saw a willingness to get to the net, I saw a willingness to be an F1 on the forecheck. And with that came some offensive opportunities and he started to cash in a bit."
The 23-year-old wing remains an interesting case for the Bruins, too.
Despite having never scored at a clip that makes you curious (Senyshyn has totaled 33 goals and 66 points in 174 game with Providence), Senyshyn hasn't looked out of place during his six-game sample with the Big B's, with an empty-net goal and two helpers. The 6-foot-1 wing would actually have a few more points to his name in 2019-20 had it not been for a few goals taken off the board via video review, too. Who knows, Senyshyn may have even carved out a full-time role with the Bruins had it not been for the lower-body injury that sidelined him for over a month.
"I know it's tough. It's his third year pro -- and I get it, it's professional hockey and there's an expectation there -- but in our mind and in Seny's mind, he's exactly where he needs is and needs to be," said Leach. "He's starting to really develop. I think he had a pretty nice stint in Boston a couple months before, unfortunately got injured, but he was getting right back to that place as we ended.
"We're hopeful that will continue."
And much like Senyshyn, Zboril finished his year on a high note for Leach, playing some competitive defensive hockey and emerging as one of Providence's top defenders to close out the regular season.
"The last 12 games or 15 games, [Zboril] became probably our best defenseman overall," said Leach. "His ability to move the puck cleanly [was there] and there's really there's not many that can do it at our level. He was paired with [Josiah] Didier for most of it and I think Dids' competitive juices wore off a little bit on Z and kind of ignited him a bit. Before you knew it, he was a real force down low."
Zboril, drafted with the No. 13 overall pick in 2015 and in action for two NHL games (both last year), totaled 19 points for the third straight AHL season. His plus-20 rating, however, was the best of his three-year AHL career, and was the 11th-best in the AHL.