Jakub Zboril

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

BOSTON -- The good, the bad, and the ugly from the Bruins' 4-2 exhibition win over the Red Wings Monday night at TD Garden:

GOLD STAR: Austin Czarnik once again showed that he can really put on a show during training camp after winning an NHL job last season based on his strong preseason. Czarnik finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 15:15 of ice time, created a penalty shot situation solely based on his skating speed and perfectly executed a 3-on-1 late in the third period while feeding a one-timer dish to Teddy Purcell for the insurance marker. Czarnik tied David Pastrnak with a team-high four shots on net for the night, and won 8-of-15 draws for the Bruins while manning his natural center position. Czarnik showed once again that he can play effectively when he’s motoring at a high pace and playing aggressive hockey, a couple of things he didn’t always do with the Bruins once the routine of the NHL regular season settled in last year.

BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo didn’t have a particularly terrible night, but he did end up as the only Bruins player with a negative plus/minus. Carlo was on the ice for both goals scored by Detroit, and otherwise didn’t really factor into the game while clocking in a solid 17:48 of ice time. His only other major contribution was an interference call halfway through the first period that put the Wings on the power play. Carlo was playing without his usual partner, Zdeno Chara, of course, and one of the remaining questions about the 21-year-old D-man is exactly how good he can be as a shutdown defenseman when he doesn’t have the big captain on his left side. Clearly, it was a good night overall for the B’s, but Carlo was far from his best in his preseason debut.

TURNING POINT: Nobody would have blamed the Bruins if they were a little frustrated after outshooting the Red Wings by a 13-8 margin, and not seeing any points up on the board. Instead of getting frustrated they kept working and finally busted through with a pair of goals within 90 seconds of each other in the second frame. Ryan Fitzgerald finished off the first chance off a nice dish from Jakub Zboril, and Danton Heinen followed by banging home a backdoor dish from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson across the ice. The two goals from two of Boston’s young forward group pushed the B’s out to a lead that they would never relinquish against Detroit.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jakub Zboril probably hasn’t received some of the fanfare of the other first-round picks in Bruins camp, but the skilled, improving D-man played an excellent first preseason game for the Black and Gold. It was Zboril’s one-man rush from his defense position that helped set up his creative dish to a wide-open Ryan Fitzgerald for Boston’s first goal, and he followed that up with 19:12 of mostly solid ice time. Zboril finished with the assist and a plus-2 rating along with a shot on net and a registered hit while also playing a special teams role on both the power play and the penalty kill. Zboril is still working on the polish to his game that will eventually make him an effective pro, but he was noticeable in a good way in his first preseason action of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the team-leading number of shot attempts for David Pastrnak in his first action of the preseason while skating with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Who is hard on the puck? Who is winning pucks? Who can keep their pace up? I think [the young forwards] are all capable of making plays, the young skilled guys. You can probably list seven or eight that have talent and could make NHL plays.” – Bruce Cassidy, on what he’s looking for out of B’s forward prospects that want to win NHL jobs. 

Jakub Zboril working for shot at Bruins vacancy on defense

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Jakub Zboril working for shot at Bruins vacancy on defense

BRIGHTON, Mass – It has been well-documented that the Bruins are scouring the league for potential left-shot defensemen that could be paired with Charlie McAvoy in a top-4 role this upcoming season in Boston. The free agent supply was scooped up quickly on July 1 before the Black and Gold could close a deal on any of them, and B’s general manager Don Sweeney hasn’t been able to piece together the right trade for a D-man to this point either.

There are internal options within the Bruins organization as well, and one of those potential defenseman candidates is 20-year-old former first round pick Jakub Zboril. The Czech-born defenseman is entering his first full season of pro hockey and wrapping up what he expects will be his final development camp with the Black and Gold this week. Zboril said he was ready for whatever fate is waiting for him at training camp this fall, but he watched with great interest as fellow young B’s D-men Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy both made an impact last season.

Zboril would like to be that guy this season in Boston as more of the B’s youth movement is taking hold with each and every season.

“I’m looking forward to it so much. I’m just going to keep working so hard and I’m going to try to make it. If I go to Providence then I’m going to keep on working hard until the one day that I get that chance to play in that league,” said Zboril. “When I saw Brandon [Carlo] got a chance to play a full season and didn’t even get sent to Providence, I was looking at it like ‘maybe I’ll get that chance too.’ It’s hard work, but maybe if I work hard enough it will pay off.”

The outlook wasn’t quite so rosy for the B’s prospect a year ago as he was coming off a down season in the QMJHL, and some were even throwing around the “bust” word despite Zboril’s youth and clear upside in his game. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder showed something, however, when he bounced back with a strong junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs while finishing with nine goals and 41 points in 50 games, and then helped lead his club to the Memorial Cup Finals with three goals and seven points in 16 games during the playoffs.  

His strong play during both the regular season and playoffs was something the Bruins organization took note of and clearly hope leads to an upward track as he begins his pro career this year. He’s come a long way from a younger player that didn’t always bring the necessary intensity level to past development camps, and needed to show a little more of the pro approach to his craft.  

“He’s come in leaps and bounds [in his development], and I think it’s comfort level for him. I think he’s a cautious kid and the maturation process he’s gone through from rookie camp to the end of the year has been fantastic. You can see it in the way he integrates himself into the group here, and the way that he’s become a leader,” said Bruins Player Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “I think it comes with getting more comfortable with the language and the culture, and maybe getting to know people a little more before he starts to open up.

“I think you want these guys to go through that process of playing their college hockey or junior hockey, getting some time in Providence learning our system on how to be a Bruin and then getting here as quickly as possible when he’s ready. I think he’s got a lot of natural talent, he plays hard and competes and he’s got a lot of those natural skills.”

As for Zboril himself, he knew there were some questions about his work ethic and commitment level after he showed up in less-than-optimal shape for his very first development camp two years ago. That’s a perception he’s been motivated to change in the last couple of seasons since getting drafted by the Bruins, and it’s something he’s addressed in the best way possible, with his actions rather than his words.

“I am one of the older guys, so I kind of had to change my attitude a little bit to be a good example for the younger guys,” said Zboril. “I try to help them out and show them the way a little bit. When I came here the first time [to development camp] I didn’t know what to expect, and I just thought it was going to be fun. I’m kind of a free-spirited guy and doing jokes and things like that.

“But I’ve tried to let it go and be more serious about it. [This past season] was a much better year for me and I thought I did a good job of adjusting back to the junior level. I think my compete level got really high over the last season. I just want to show that I’ve really matured as a player, and as a guy off the ice as well.”

The proof is in the progress he’s made over the last couple of seasons, and the leadership role he’s taking hold of with the younger prospects at development. The question now is whether Zboril’s package of skating, passing, solid physicality and good offensive instincts can develop quickly enough for him to pop at a time when Boston needs a left-shot defenseman to step up.

The easy answer to this question is a negative one given that Zboril is a work-in-progress and still has some things to prove both mentally and physically before he’s truly in the top-4 circle of trust at the NHL level. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a 20-year-old like Zboril paired with a 20-year-old like McAvoy for anything approaching regular usage at the NHL level, and instead a couple of other options – Kevan Miller swinging from the right side to the left side, or Torey Krug continuing to play up in a top-4 role – would be safer and more prudent for the Bruins.

But the bottom line is this: Zboril could end up being the most talented option the Bruins have in their search a left-shot D-man, and it may just be a matter of time before he fills that void on a much more permanent basis than any of the other stopgap solutions for the B’s.  

Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

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Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

BRIGHTON -- It’s easy to see that Jakub Zboril , one of the Bruins' 2015 first-round pick, has come a long way in a year.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Zboril. “After last year, when all of the people saying something about what they didn’t like about me, it really pushed me forward. I told myself I wanted to be in better shape and so I worked really hard at it.”

The 19-year-old wasn’t in very good shape for last season's training camp after coming back from a knee injury, and that carried over into a junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs (6 goals and 20 points in 50 games). That was a drop from his 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games prior to hearing his name called by the B’s on draft night.

Zboril was back at peak effectiveness in the playoffs for the Sea Dogs with a couple of goals and 10 points in 17 games, but the chain of events caused some to wonder if the Bruins had drafted something of a bust.

It seems ludicrous, considering Zboril is a 19-year-old talented enough to be selected 13th overall in the entire NHL draft, and even more so now that he’s showing much more in his second camp with Boston. It was some good and some bad for Zboril in his preseason debut against Columbus on Monday with a misplay leading to a goal against, but Zboril also kicked off the transition pass that helped the Bruins score their first goal of game.

“From last year I think he’s made big strides,” said assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s a young kid that’s only 19 years old, and he’s going to keep getting better. So that’s what you want. The structure in his game and the overall attitude [is better]. He was a little young last year. He’s in better shape. He’s done a lot of things that we got on him for last year, and he’s taken it and listened, he’s working hard. He’s done a good job.”

It’s a long shot for Zboril to crack the B’s roster this fall, so he’s likely headed back to Saint John for another junior hockey season after watching fellow prospect Thomas Chabot get a lot of the No. 1 D-man playing time last season. He quickly shot down any possibilities of playing in Europe rather than going back to the Quebec Major Junior League, and said there could still be plenty to learn in his final junior season.

“Right now where I am, I can just learn from myself and pushing myself,” said Zboril, of going back to junior. “What I can take from last year is that my role on the team changed, and I had to be more of a shutdown D. I had to show my defensive abilities, so I improved a lot from the year before. I think I can be more of a defensive defenseman too, so there’s that.”

Still, the so-so season last year had its impact in a positive fashion with Zboril really stepping up his game. But it’s also had its drawbacks as the Czech-born defenseman was forced to deactivate his Twitter account because of the harsh criticism and messages he was getting from hockey fans. Disappointingly, Zboril said most of it was coming from people in Boston that claim to be Bruins fans, and that it was like “people just spitting on you.”

“It was really pushing me down a lot,” said Zboril. “After some games when you know you weren’t playing really good, then you go on Twitter and you just see . . . people just spitting on you. So I had to delete it.”

Zboril said he’s much happier since getting off social media. But it’s a shame that a bright young prospect’s first impression of his future NHL city was the flaming dumpster of keyboard warriors that should forever be known as “Bruins Hockey Twitter.”