By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It's been over five and a half years since the Boston Bruins selected Jakub Zboril with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. And the wait to finally see if Zboril is an NHL player is nearing its end.
Not a moment too soon, either.
While the first round of the 2015 draft has produced NHL regular after regular, Zboril — and fellow Bruins pick Zach Senyshyn — sit as the only two picks from the round yet to emerge as NHL talents. (Jake DeBrusk, picked between Zboril and Senyshyn and with the B's natural pick, is the Bruins' only win out of the round.) Senyshyn, placed on waivers Monday (and clearing on Tuesday), will get his chance to carve out on a role on either the taxi squad or perhaps with some additional seasoning with the P-Bruins.
But for the 23-year-old Zboril, it appears that an opportunity will come out of the gate in the 2021 season, on the left side of the Black and Gold's third pair opposite the veteran Kevan Miller.
“This is the year that I should be making the step," Zboril, who requested a trade from the organization last year, admitted. "So I’m really focused in every single practice and really digging in to get a chance and get a hold on to it. We’ll see where it takes me.”
One of the things that Zboril has tried to focus on in this accelerated training camp has been "being seen every day." Those practice habits and dedication have been questioned in the past, but when you're successfully completing shutdown drills against Patrice Bergeron and integrating yourself into power-play opportunities, that's a sign that you're being noticed for the right things.
"[Zboril] sees the ice really well, skates really well, he makes good plays," Miller offered. "I think this is the second or third camp in a row where I've been partnered up with him to start. He's made leaps and bounds since the first time he got here to where he is now."
"You’re not really held accountable except to your teammates and yourself in terms of making the practice or yourself better," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said last week when asked about pairing Zboril with the 33-year-old Miller. "There’s no end result, there’s no game, there’s no two points on the line. So you have to find ways to challenge yourself in practice to get better and that’s what I think Kevan can do for Jakub."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Zboril feels helped by the fact that he stayed busy earlier this season. In between the Edmonton bubble and start of training camp for the 2021 season, Zboril played for his hometown Brno Kometa of the Czech League, and put up a goal and eight points in 18 games.
He also feels more comfortable in his skin as a multi-year pro on North American ice.
"I would say [my biggest improvement] is that I believe in myself more," Zboril said of his camp showing. "I know I can be accountable on the ice. And I trust myself, I trust my feet to get into spots. I know I can skate. I feel like I can battle more in the corners, and that feels like the biggest improvement in my game.
"Little more time, maturating did a lot for me."
This checks out with what P-Bruins head coach Jay Leach thought of Zboril's finish to his 2019-20 season in Providence, and what the Bruins hope can show up to crown Zboril the rightful winner of their backend battle that's not short on contenders gunning for Zboril's spot.
And what the B's hope can show up to salvage the first round of their 2015 draft.