He wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t quite great either.
SCOC Rating: 4.3
Reader Rating: 5.2
Similar to a guy like Trent Frederic or Karson Kuhlman, it’s not fair to look at Jakub Zboril’s 2021 season as a complete disaster.
However, it’s also fair to say that it wasn’t exactly a smash hit either.
The overall picture is somewhere in between: Zboril made progress, but probably not as much as we’d hoped.
This was clearly Zboril’s most impactful NHL season to date, with the Czech defender skating in 42 regular season games (compared to a whopping two NHL games before last season).
He had flashes of some good stuff last season, playing with a little bit of an edge at times and accumulating nine assists; no, that’s not an eye-popping assist total, but also isn’t bad for a bottom-pairing defenseman playing in his first NHL season.
Zboril spent the majority of his games shuffling between the second and third pairs, playing some games with Brandon Carlo, some games with Connor Clifton, and some games with others.
As I believe I mentioned with Kuhlman’s review, you didn’t really watch the games Zboril played and leave with an overwhelming sense of “this kid needs to be scratched.”
However, he also didn’t leave you wanting more (though in some ways, not standing out isn’t a bad thing for a defenseman).
It’s fair to say that Zboril’s development has been a bit slow — by way of comparison, Zboril is 24, and Brandon Carlo will be just 25 in November. Age can’t be an excuse forever.
It’s also fair to say that Zboril has improved in each of his professional seasons, and there’s little reason to believe that won’t continue.
The problem: finding ice time next season.
The Bruins’ six main defensemen are likely set with Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Derek Forbort, Brandon Carlo, Mike Reilly, and Connor Clifton.
Jeremy Lauzon is gone, as are Kevan Miller, Steven Kampfer, and Jarred Tinordi.
In all likelihood, Zboril is the “next man up” next season when someone gets injured, which we all know will happen at some point.
Ideally, he’s able to take advantage of that opportunity when it arises.
Next season is a big one for Zboril: it’s the last season of his current contract, which carries an AAV of $725,000.
Barring a complete disaster, it’s unlikely that the Bruins would just cut bait with Zboril at season’s end.
However, his performance this season will go a long way toward determining whether or not he gets a cursory one-year extension or a longer deal.
As a reminder, Zboril is now required to pass through waivers should the Bruins decide there isn’t room for him on the roster, so it’s NHL or bust for New Z.
Here’s to hoping that the progress can continue, and that we can maybe see a few strides further forward this season.