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Zboril Slated For Reserve Spot To Start Boston Bruins’ Season

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It’s a bit of a different feel for Jakub Zboril this season in the waning days of Boston Bruins training camp.

A year ago, the B’s waved goodbye to Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara in free agency, and Zboril was essentially handed a job in the top-6 along with fellow youngster Jeremy Lauzon as the Bruins evaluated their young D-men. This season, by contrast, Zboril is looking at a role as the seventh or eighth D-man to start the season in Boston with Connor Clifton and Matt Grzelcyk likely a lock to be the defense’s third pair.

That leaves Zboril and a healthy John Moore as the reserve D-men, who will undoubtedly get their share of playing time given the attrition every D-men corps through during the NHL regular season gauntlet. It’s a significant fate change for the 24-year-old Zboril, but also a reflection of injury and consistency issues he battled in his first full NHL season.

“After last season I was thinking that I would have my spot on the team, but some injuries came in and I didn’t play like I wanted to play,” said Zboril, who finished with nine assists and a zero plus/minus rating in 42 games last season. “Someone else got my spot, so I was told to come into camp and fight for my spot. I think I did a pretty good job of doing that and showing up to camp ready to compete for my spot.

“[My mindset is] It can’t be somedays. You have to show up every single day whether it’s practice or it’s games, you have to be there, be a good pro and lead by example.”

The bottom line is that Zboril didn’t make enough impactful plays when he was healthy and in the lineup last season to offset some of the rookie mistakes that happen to every inexperienced defenseman. Full credit to retired Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller for really instilling a pro mindset into a young blueliner, one that had lacked focus in the past, while the two played together on a pairing last season.

It’s fairly apparent at this point, though, that Zboril isn’t going to get his spot back after the B’s added Derek Forbort and Mike Reilly in the last six months, and re-signed Reilly to a new contract after trading for him last spring.

Instead Zboril and Moore will need to be prepared to play the right or left and jump into whatever spot opens up due to injury or ineffectiveness.

As with the Black and Gold’s forward group, there really isn’t a lot of intrigue and mystery to which players will end up in the starting lineup, and who is slated for the 23 roster spots with the NHL group this year.

Zboril’s standing as a left stick certainly doesn’t help matters given how strong they now are on the left side, but his role as a reserve ‘D’ this season has been ordained for a while.

“I like his professionalism and his approach, it looks like his conditioning is better,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Who knows how that will translate when he gets in? But he’ll get in because there are always injuries. We’ll see how he does. He’s a guy that can play on the right and we’re still looking at Cliffy, [John Moore] and Zboril for that last spot because the other five are set.

“Cliffy being a right stick has an advantage and he hasn’t done anything to hurt himself [during training camp]. Last year was a situation where [Zboril] and Lauzon were going to get an opportunity if they deserved it. We wanted to see what they had, and they had some good moments and other moments where it looked like {an NHL job] was new to them. But all in all, it should benefit him when he’s ready to go this year.”

It isn’t exactly a crossroads season for Zboril given he’s still an RFA at the end of his year, but time is running out for Zboril to carve out a bigger role than reserve defenseman on a Bruins team that had bigger plans for him as a former first round pick.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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