Two selections from Boston’s deep and promising draft class of 2015 are making positive waves in their respective junior leagues this season.
Defenseman Jakub Zboril, who was Boston’s top pick at 13th overall (acquired from Los Angeles as part of the Milan Lucic trade), is answering some of the questions about him coming into the season after being focused more on defense last season and posting a mediocre 6-14-20 stats line in 50 games with Saint John a year ago, he already has 5 goals in just 14 contests, and has not slowed much since the return of fellow blue liner Thomas Chabot to the QMJHL after breaking camp with the Ottawa Senators and beginning the season there for a few games.
If you have been a regular to this blog, then you know that TSP has never questioned Zboril’s skill and talent levels. When breaking down the top tier of the 2015 defensemen, the Czech two-way rearguard belonged in the discussion going off of pure ability- he wasn’t that far off from any of Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski, all top-10 selections and all three of whom are in the NHL this year and making an impact on their respective clubs. What caused Zboril to fall into the second tier and below the cut line of the top defenders available in that strong draft crop was his waning compete levels and inconsistent application of his abilities. In short- when Zboril is working hard and on his game, he’s an ideal fit for the modern NHL: he’s fast, hard-hitting and can make a top first pass, not to mention having a blistering point shot when he has the time and space to cock the cannon and unload. Unfortunately, Zboril isn’t always on his game, and that is what has led to some of the doubts about his long-term viability.
For now, he’s certainly getting the job done for Danny Flynn and the Sea Dogs, and that is good to see. Flynn is a good coach- he helped mentor Brad Marchand when he was an assistant under Ted Nolan with the 2006 Moncton Wildcats, so he knows how to get good mileage out of players who might not always be on the same page when it comes to applying themselves. This is not to stir undue concern where it isn’t warranted, but not to put too fine a point on it- Zboril is still very much a work in progress who has yet to prove that he really wants to succeed and be the kind of NHL player his talent implies he should be. We shall see, but as B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley said in the offseason- the team sees their top choice a year ago as “on track”- that wasn’t what you would call a ringing endorsement, but to Zboril’s credit- he’s playing effective defense and contributing offense much more consistently than he was a year ago. That’s encouraging and we’ll see where it leads- pointing out a player’s shortcomings doesn’t make them “haters” so we’ll hope that people who ought to know better don’t try to polarize the discussion as often happens in sports discussions and take the feedback in the spirit intended- he’s making positive progress and is answering some of the questions, but it’s early yet- we’ll re-evaluate at the end of the year and see how it all went.
We’re not ready to eat crow yet, but we’ll give Zboril a stick tap for a strong Bruins training camp and a fine start to the season. It’s all you can ask for at this point, and he looks like a top-15 pick, which is encouraging.
Jesse Gabrielle is stepping it up for the second consecutive season in Prince George of the WHL after scoring 40 goals a year ago.
He’s the kind of forward that Bruins fans instantly took a shine to because he can score and plays a physical, abrasive style that makes him a tough opponent that teams have to account for whenever he’s on the ice.
The Saskatchewan native fell in the draft, and he’s been a man on a mission to show the teams that passed him up that they were wrong in doing so. So far, so good. He’s done impressive offseason work in the weight room to get his body in shape to handle the punishment that he takes on by driving hard to the net, firing himself into corners and along the walls to win battles for loose pucks and bouncing through checks to set up in the high danger areas where he makes the most money.
He’s playing a more controlled style this season- staying within his parameters and not taking undisciplined penalties as much. Gabrielle continues to understand that he’s more effective when he’s on the ice firing pucks into the back of the net, much like his hockey idol Brad Marchand has learned over time with the Bruins.
You have to give Gabrielle credit for not only getting himself into top physical shape but taking the coaching to heart and continuing to be a key offensive player, leading the Cougars in goals and pacing a blistering offensive attack that can beat opponents any which way. Gabrielle is the embodiment of that—he can play a finesse style or he can pound you, take the puck away and finish off the play himself.
He’s still refining his overall game, but at present, Gabrielle is looking like one of the top values in a very good 2015 draft class.
And here’s the updated stats lines for both amateur and pro (AHL and Euro) players:
Amateur Prospects as of 11/15/16
|Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George||WHL||15||10||9||19||16|
|Anders Bjork, Notre Dame||HE-NCAA||9||7||11||18||2|
|Jakub Zboril, Saint John||QMJHL||14||5||8||13||6|
|Ryan Fitzgerald, BC||HE-NCAA||13||4||9||13||16|
|Trent Frederic, Wisconsin||Big10- NCAA||8||4||6||10||8|
|Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU||HE- NCAA||9||2||7||9||8|
|Charlie McAvoy, BU||HE-NCAA||9||1||8||9||6|
|Zach Senyshyn, SSM||OHL||14||5||4||9||10|
|Ryan Donato, Harvard
|Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin
|Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda
|Jack Becker, Sioux Falls
|Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.
|Wiley Sherman, Harvard
|Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota
Pro and European Prospects
|Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr.*||U20- Finland||11||7||9||16||2|
|Peter Cehlarik, Providence
|Anton Blidh, Providence
|Danton Heinen, Providence||AHL||5||2||3||5||0
|Jake DeBrusk, Providence||AHL||13||2||2||4||2
|Matt Grzelcyk, Providence
|Austin Czarnik, Providence#
|Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF
|Colby Cave, Providence
|Rob O’Gara, Providence
|Sean Kuraly, Providence#
|Colton Hargrove, Providence
|Linus Arnesson, Providence
|Justin Hickman, Providence
|Oskar Steen, MoDo
|Sweden- Div 2||4||0||0||0||2|
|Chris Casto, Providence
|Zane McIntyre, Providence#
|Dan Vladar, Providence
|Malcolm Subban, Providence
|Brian Ferlin, Providence*
# Czarnik, Kuraly, McIntyre recalled to Boston
*Joona Koppanen, Brian Ferlin- injured
** Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not listed