Jakub Zboril

Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

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Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

Looking at it from the long term view, the Boston Bruins are in a fantastic position at this point in time.

They’re a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL’s top spot, they have a group at the NHL level that’s an ideal combination of proven, veteran Cup winners and talented, enthusiastic young players ready to make their mark.

The Bruins also have a wealth of young prospects below the NHL level working their way to Boston whether it’s former first round picks like Jakub Zboril or Zach Senyshyn just a step away in Providence, or college hockey players like Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic that form the next wave of youngsters. The simple fact of the matter with the Black and Gold is that there isn’t going to be room for every single prospect at the NHL level, and that goes doubly so for a deep, talented group like the Bruins. Another simple NHL fact is that teams have to give up something to get something around the trade deadline, and that means the B’s are going to have to part with something of quality if they want to land a potential big fish like Ryan McDonagh or Rick Nash, or perhaps even a medium-sized fish like Michael Grabner.

Whether it’s again dealing with the Rangers, or the Edmonton Oilers for Patrick Maroon, or the Vancouver Canucks for Thomas Vanek, the GMs around the league are also well aware of the wealth of prospects within the Bruins organization. And they’re looking to land some of them in any potential deals with the Black and Gold. The Rangers, in particular, want NHL-ready prospects to quickly reload their roster, but that’s what all of these teams are looking for in potential rental deals, or trades for players like McDonagh with more term on the contract.

So the million dollar question is what the Bruins should be willing to part with in those types of deals. GMs will certainly ask about Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo at the NHL level as all four players are midway through their entry level contracts, and have already established themselves as considerable NHL players. McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should all be completely off the table in any of the deals the Bruins could be expected to make, and the expectation is that Don Sweeney isn’t going to deal any of them. Those three players are already tightly woven within the fabric of the team, and subtracting them from the roster would substantially worsen the team both in the short term and the long term.

Carlo is perhaps in a little bit of a different story in that the 21-year-old could be a viable trade piece if it was in something like the McDonagh deal, where the Bruins were going to be able to substantially upgrade their defensemen situation. Still, the Bruins aren’t very deep organizationally when it comes to right shot defensemen, and dealing a young, promising righty like Carlo for a lefty like McDonagh would only further complicate that situation.

That's above and beyond the fact that a clever, experienced GM like Jeff Gorton is going to attempt to maximize his return for a big asset like McDonagh, and attempt to get a package featuring two young NHL players (Carlo and either DeBrusk or Heinen) and a pick in exchange for New York's captain. 

The bottom line: of the four established NHL players mostly likely to be coveted by other NHL GMs in trade talks, stay-at-home defenseman Carlo is the only that should be seriously considered as a trade piece.

In the same vein, the most viable Bruins prospect up front that could be moved in the right deal is Anders Bjork. The 21-year-old Bjork has four goals and 12 points in 30 games for the Bruins this season while jumping from Notre Dame straight to the NHL, and is currently injured with an upper body injury suffered last month. He’s shown great skating speed, good hockey IQ and the offensive creativity needed to be a top-6 forward, and has been considered the same class of forward prospect as Heinen and DeBrusk.

It’s still entirely possible that Bjork becomes the best of all three players when it’s all said and done, but it’s also clear Heinen and DeBrusk have hopped over him on the organizational depth chart as this season has played out.

More importantly, Bjork, if traded, could be replaced rather immediately in the B’s talent pipeline by forward Ryan Donato after his impressive five-goal performance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. That’s how it works for an organization like the Bruins where draft and development has become a success story. Some prospects make it to the NHL level and supplant veterans while keeping the salary cap from becoming an issue, some prospects perhaps don’t live up to the hype and other prospects are used as trade assets to address roster needs at the NHL level when things like the trade deadline come to the fore.

The real challenge for Sweeney over the next few days will be deciding which ones like Robbie O’Gara can be utilized in trades to support the NHL team, and which ones like McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should be absolutely untouchable right now.


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


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.