Growth and Maturity
Jakub Zboril’s skill and character are starting to align. The 20-year-old product of the Czech Republic is excelling in his third season with Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. Zboril’s journey like that many other top prospects has had its share of ups and downs. Progress and development among the junior ranks aren’t always linear, however, the Boston Bruins 1st rounder has shown growth and maturity throughout his time in Saint John.
“We wanted to eliminate certain aspects out of his game entering this season and he has definitely responded,” said Sea Dogs assistant coach Paul Boutilier.
Undisciplined penalties and poor decision-making were cause for concern last season for the highly-touted prospect. It was clear that numerous undisciplined penalties stemmed from a player who wanted to intimidate and perhaps showcase his toughness rather than letting the game come to him.
“I think some of those penalties we saw last year was out of frustration,” added Boutilier. Zboril has regained the swagger and confidence that have helped his overall game and, as of late, continues to live up to the high expectations that have surrounded him since his arrival in North America.
“I had lots of pressure after last year and mainly I put it on myself, and lots of pressure from people of Twitter and after last year I deleted my Twitter account so I’m not checking that out anymore,” Zboril said. “Actually I was by myself after NHL camp and thought I would come here and it would be so much easier and it was actually a lot harder.”
Players often feel a let down after returning to to their junior clubs, and a subsequent decline in play isn’t uncommon. It’s been dubbed the NHL Hangover.
“This is young guys’ league,” Zboril said. “Sometimes the guy that should be there isn’t and it’s hard if you try to look for him. In the NHL everyone is actually in their spot so it’s so much easier and everyone talks to you. You have so many possibilities to use, and your “D” partner always tells you what to do, so it’s so much easier. When I came back last year it was like wow this is so much harder.”
Zboril’s offensive numbers dipped slightly a season ago as he only generated 20 points in 50 games. However, after a strong playoff run where he amassed 10 points in 17games, Zboril has picked up where he left off. Through 45 games he has 9 goals and 28 assists and looks more comfortable in all three zones. Zboril’s offensive contribution starts with the transition game and his ability to make a quality first pass and uncanny knack to join the rush, coupled with a heavy and accurate shot from the point position.
“Of course I want to join the offence, but this is not my style of game, I have to be a smart D, I have lots of grit and I have to show mainly that, I have to be more of a puck mover,” he said. “I have to do a really good first pass and then maybe join the rush, I don’t have to be that type of guy on the ice like Thomas Chabot, some shiny stuff and toe drags, though I would like to be able to do that, it’s just not my game.”
Boutilier is pleased but not surprised with the progress that Zboril has made over the last few seasons. “He is a more excitable player now and has grown both on and off the ice. Jakub has worked extremely hard on things down here and we continue to work hand in hand with Boston to help refine his game.”
The pressure on being a high first round NHL draft pick can bring its share of high expectations, undue self-imposed pressure and unwarranted attention. Zboril has faced adversity throughout his junior career but yet he continues to show growth and maturity, which should serve him well at the next level.