By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — From the time he was drafted by the Bruins through the end of his participation in his third Bruins development camp last weekend, defenseman Jakub Zboril has turned observers’ snickers to open-mouthed looks of awe.READ MORE: FDA Expected To Authorize Mixing COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots, Report Says
Once deemed a reach when he was picked 13th in 2015 and then a potential bust since then, Zboril is coming off a QMJHL championship season with St. John, and he’s closer to cracking the NHL lineup than anyone expected at this time last year.
“I think skill-wise I’m OK,” Zboril said about his readiness for the NHL. “I got really better at the compete level from last season, so I think I’m ready for it.”
After he had 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 50 games for St. John in 2015-16, Zboril talked about being more offensive-minded. He turned his words into actions with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists) in 50 games last season.
Zboril, 20, has met numerous challenges over the course of his North American career. He said he’s adjusted to the smaller NHL-sized rinks, and speaking with him you can see how his English has improved by leaps and bounds since his draft year. He said he picked up a lot of his language skills talking with teammates and playing video games.
Then there was the biggest challenge: the embarrassment of his first development camp, when he looked out of place on and off the ice. Zboril, however, had a solution to that problem and for moving forward with confidence.
“Well the first year, that was kind of tough for me,” he said. “I suffered an injury in the season before the draft and I still had a problem with my knee. I came to development camp and I failed the tests, it was all over the news. I was getting ripped up on social media. So I deleted it all. I have no idea whatsoever what’s going on on social media right media. I deleted my Instagram, my Twitter account. I only have Facebook to text with my friends.”READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
It’s a shame Zboril can’t be back in the social media realm because he would see people now singing his praises and holding him to high expectations that could land him in Boston’s top six this year or next.
Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner agreed that Zboril has matured a lot the past couple years. Langenbrunner said Zboril was being assertive in the room and talking more. On the ice, his talent has blossomed.
“I think he’s a guy that has a lot of natural talent. He sees the ice well, he plays hard, competes and he’s got some skills,” Langenbrunner said. “He skates pretty well, especially considering he hasn’t been on the ice too much in the last month with his season ending so late.”
The Sea Dogs’ run to the Memorial Cup after winning the QMJHL title sped up Zboril maturation process. He said he was focused mostly on being more intense throughout the game, at the urging of the Boston brass. That paid off with a larger role throughout the season and more than 20 minutes in ice time in almost all the Memorial Cup games.
Zboril doesn’t seem fazed by the challenge of making the jump to pro hockey. In fact, he’s even considering living on his own — in Providence or Boston — in the fall despite being new in town and a first-year pro.
“Depends on how much it’s going to cost,” Zboril said. “I would like to be alone. After practice I’m the type of guy who likes to maybe chill a little bit. Just lay down, cool off a little bit.”
If Zboril fulfills his potential, the Bruins will let him live anywhere and with whoever he wants. And he may even get to log back into social media.MORE NEWS: Mother, Boyfriend Arrested In Investigation Into Missing New Hampshire 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.