With the youth cupboards looking pretty bare on defence, the Canadiens may have a shot at a hot commodity on the backend in Czech defenceman Jakub Zboril. Plying his trade in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs, Zboril had his coming out party at this season’s Ivan Hlinka tournament as a power play assassin. He could be a steal as the 26th pick by the Canadiens, should he last that long in the draft.
DOB: February 21, 1997 – Brno, Czech Republic
Weight: 185 lbs
CSB: 12 (North American Skaters)
Hockey Prospect: 25
Future Considerations: 20
Hockey News: 25
The old saying goes “timing is everything” and it looks like this 18 year old paid attention in overused idioms in class. While the book has always been rosy about Zboril’s potential, the young Czech defenceman served notice at this season’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, posting four power play goals and two power play assists to lead his team to an unexpected final.
Zboril is a power play specialist with the kind of shot that could spearhead NHL PP units – think Sheldon Souray, Mark Streit and (sort of) Mathieu Schneider during his brief second stint with Montreal. He has a flair for offence beyond working the man advantage, but his shot and willingness to unleash it at will is a core strength. Having just read that following Montreal’s depressing power play at end of the year, Habs fans can be forgiven for drooling all over their keyboards or mobile devices.
His strengths stretch to intelligence on the ice, with the ability to read and break down developing plays. He has the size and footwork to compete on the rush while being able to put in strong shifts in the defensive zone. Reports show that he isn’t skating around looking to decapitate and hurt opponents, but he has the grit and mean streak to dole out physical punishment – as well as taking it to make a play. He’s also been tabbed as a player who is willing, and able to learn.
The knocks on his game have to be sought out, with none that severely damage his value. His first pass can be flimsy at times and he would need to put on weight when he plays in the AHL or NHL. Both could be corrected by any team that drafts him. Most alarming may be reports that say he’s been known to show inconsistency, sometimes several times during a single game. This should be a bit of a red flag – that’s generally a problem between the ears, something teams can’t fix with systems and training regiments. All in all, the term “home run pick” has been associated with his name through the process, so the good far outweighs the bad.
Scouting pegs him as an excellent two-way top four defenceman with clear specialist capabilities on the power play.
At 18 years of age, and having just completed his (knee) injury shortened first year in the QMJHL, he has a few years before having a regular place in the NHL. He has the tools, it’s just a question of adapting to the speed and physicality of playing with men and not boys. It’s conceivable he can skip the AHL all together with a strong training camp in a few years.