The biggest challenge for foreign prospects is proving they can play on North American ice. Scouts always add an asterisk to European players based on the typical factors: quality of competition, stylistic differences, rule differences, etc. Those who transfer to the CHL often face difficulty adjusting in their first year before returning to full form.
One of the exceptions to that rule is Jakub Zboril, who came over from the Czech leagues and immediately became an impact player for the Saint John Sea Dogs. Named to the QMJHL rookie team, Zboril exceeded expectation and put in a convincing draft season.
|Birthdate||February 21st, 1997|
|NHL Central Scouting ranking||#12 NA (11 midterm)|
|NHLe (Draft -1)||N/A|
At the risk of repeating myself, Zboril is a puck moving defenceman that succeeds in all areas of the ice, much like many other defencemen in this draft. He isn't described as a flashy, exciting player, but he rarely makes a mistake. Zboril's key attribute is his strong neutral zone play: he stifles opposing breakouts while making smooth transitions into the opposing end.
Zboril was also heavily relied on for all scenarios. He's projected to be a future powerplay quarterback, having scored 10 of his goals on the man advantage. He also improved his PK skills in Saint John, struggling earlier in the season and becoming dominant later on.
Zboril draws parallels with Keith Yandle, and it's easy to see why.
As previously mentioned, there's not a whole lot of things he does wrong on the ice. He's a pretty solid, all around player, but scouts are uncertain about how well that will translate into the NHL. They see a player who is really good, not one who is potentially elite. The general consensus is that he will be a solid second pairing guy, but will be overwhelmed on the first pairing. Not very attractive for a first round pick.
With a crumbling, aging defensive core past slots 1 and 2, the Flames need new life. Pairings two and three have been a walking disaster, and there's very little to suggest that the Flames have a long term solution. While the free agent market looks promising, the Flames need someone who will produce in 2-4 years. That's where Zboril comes in.
Call me pessimistic, but the current defensive depth doesn't look promising enough to make a massive impact. Zboril can add depth immediately, and doesn't need to be the saviour of the back end. He can function as a high producing second pairing player. Think Dennis Wideman, without the defensive liability.
The only issue is the fact that the Flames pick at #15. Since Zboril is a definite second pairing guy, but not quite a first pairing, is it worth it to take him? There should be plenty of options at #15, including higher ceiling guys. A lot of dominoes will have to fall (Jeremy Roy, Thomas Chabot, Oliver Kylington) if the Flames take him at that spot, and even if all that happens, they'll probably go with a forward option.
Why draft him?
- Very adaptable, NHL suitable player
- Good three zone player, especially in the neutral zone which continues to be a weakness for the Flames
- Special team specialist
- Very solid future ahead of him
Why not draft him?
- Lower ceiling than many other defensive prospects available at #15
Zboril has been guaranteed an NHL future by scouts, but they aren't all that optimistic about him. When Zboril hits the NHL level, the Flames could be looking for another future first pairing guy, and he might not reach that level. There's a lot to like, but when the Flames get called up, there's going to be someone a lot more likeable available.