As noon approached during the first day of Development Camp, the coaches instructing this year’s four-day event for Bruins prospects hit the ice roughly an hour later than originally scheduled. The young and future B’s blueliners followed minutes later.
The first member of that defensive pipeline to hit the ice? Jakub Zboril, one of the Bruins’ three first-round selections in the 2015 Entry Draft.
Zboril’s approach this time around is quite different from his first Development Camp in 2015. Instead of focusing on a good time, the Czech has more of a down to business mindset while also showing the ropes for some of the younger prospects at this year’s camp that includes the 2017 Draft class highlighted by first rounder Urho Vaakanainen.
“I’m one of the older guys here this year,” said Zboril after completing his first day of his third trip to Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena. “So I had to change my attitude and become a good example for the younger guys and try to help them out, and show them the way a little.”
“When I came here the first time, I didn’t know what to expect,” Zboril said about his first prospect event at Ristuccia Arena at the Bruins’ former practice event in Wilmington. “I thought it would be kind of fun. I’m kind of a free-spirited guy and I like to tell jokes and stuff like that, but [this time] I kind of let it go and be more serious about it.”
It’s one thing to be outspoken, but another thing to lead by example. The instructors at this year’s Development Camp, including ex-Stars, Devils and Blues forward Jamie Langenbrunner, are seeing Zboril develop that latter trait.
“He’s come leaps and bounds, and I think it’s a comfort level for him,” said Langenbrunner, who completed his second season as the Bruins’ Player Development Coordinator in 2016-17. “I think he’s a cautious kid in that regard, and the maturation process that he went through last year from rookie camp to the end of the year has been fantastic. You can kind of see that in the way he integrates himself in the group now and becoming more of a leader.”
Production wise, Zboril is coming off his most productive season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in 2016-17. In 50 games, Zboril posted career bests in points (41), assists (32) and plus/minus (plus-19) during his third season of junior hockey.
Zboril appeared for the Providence Bruins during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Before that, he guided Saint John to an appearance in the Memorial Cup where he tallied seven points in 16 games. Certainly, that experience boded well for Zboril’s development, especially after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign where he only tallied 20 points – down 13 from his first season with the Sea Dogs.
“It was a much better year for me,” Zboril, who played in one exhibition game for the Bruins before returning to juniors last fall, said about his third year in Saint John. “When I went back to juniors I knew what to expect, so I was ready for it and I think I did a great job adjusting to the junior level again.”
Even during his stint in Providence, Zboril’s adjustment period will continue. At training camp, he’ll hope to showcase his potential to Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins coaching staff. Though he would fill a need as a left shot defenseman on Boston’s blue-line, the 20-year-old will likely start the season with the Baby B’s.
That was the same situation Brandon Carlo faced a year ago, but an opportunity presented itself with pre-season injuries and he capitalized on that. Carlo appeared in all 82 regular season games before suffering a concussion on the final day of the regular season. That opened up an opportunity for another young defenseman in Charlie McAvoy, who seized his chance during the B’s first round series against the Sens.
Seeing the success of Carlo – and to a lesser extent McAvoy – gives Zboril a reason for optimism as he embarks on his first season of professional hockey, be it in Providence or Boston.
“When I saw Brandon come up and play a full season and not even get sent back to Providence, I was looking at it and saying ‘hey, maybe I will get a chance too,” Zboril said about Carlo seizing on his opportunity during his first year in Boston.
“I’m looking forward to [training camp] so much. I’m just going to keep working so hard, and I’m going to try to make it [in Boston]. If not and I go to Providence, I’m just going to keep working hard and to one day get a chance to play [in the NHL].”
Training Camp is still a couple of months away. For now, it’s back to business for Zboril as Day 2 of Development Camp approaches.