By: Craig Eagles | Follow Me On Twitter @Eags37
Everyone is searching for the blueprint of success, especially young defencemen in the game of hockey. For some highly touted defensive prospects that success comes almost naturally; for others, it’s an arduous journey.
Paul Boutilier knows a thing or two about early success, being a first-round NHL draft pick and winning a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders as a 19-year-old rookie in 1983. Nowadays, Boutilier works as a consultant helping some of the best up and coming blueliners in the game design their own blueprint to success.
The work of an architect and designer is never-ending but extremely rewarding when the blueprint and design comes to fruition. Even though Boutilier has his regular stable of defensive prospects, players that he has worked with in the past still catch his eye.
A lot has happened since Jakub Zboril laced them for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL. Some might say that’s ancient history given the peaks and valleys of the young Czech’s climb to hockey’s highest level. Nevertheless, that’s when everything started to change for the B’s 2015 1st rounder. The Sea Dogs assistant coach at that time was none other than Paul Boutilier.
Boutilier deserves a lot of credit when it comes to Jakub Zboril’s current success, but the proud Nova Scotian and hockey lifer downplays that notion almost instantly. “Jakub’s confidence was in a really good place,” said Boutilier when he first started working with him in the Port City in 2015-2016.
“Jakub is one of those guys like Joe Veleno who always played up a year and played against older players. Sometimes those players don’t see the leadership qualities within themselves. They’re really good players, but you tend to be the young guy in the room, so when people ask those players to be the assistant captain or go ask them for some leadership, they never had it.” Confidence is everything for a player, especially one that seemingly has the weight of the world on their shoulders.
“Confidence wise as a player and person, I think Jakub was really good; sure, there was a language issue and an adjustment to playing against really good players, but he had an objective to be one of the top picks on our team, and he accomplished that,” said the former Sea Dogs and Belleville Senators Assistant Coach. One would assume playing behind Thomas Chabot in Saint John would have been very challenging at times.
“I think for Jakub, there was a slight adjustment playing behind Thomas, but his confidence was still pretty good.” Given the Dogs structure and offensive depth at the time, former Head Coach Danny Flynn, Boutilier, and assistant coach and former NHLer Jeff Cowan employed a four forward one D model for the man advantage.
Zboril quarterbacked the second unit and did an admirable job, and even scored more power-play goals than Chabot playing in that role. The Sea Dogs dominated the QMJHL in 2017, capturing the President Cup. “Jakub was a Boston-type kid. Knowing those guys, he was just a Bruin-type player, and you could see why,” said Boutilier.
Boutilier and Zboril’s paths did cross after the QMJHL a few times in the American Hockey League. “There were a few times when I came across him in the AHL when his confidence might have been low or when he was overthinking things, but they did a really good job bringing him out of that and gradually getting him to a level of responsibility making the player realize like hey I have to apply this to every game, to every period and every shift.” “Obviously, that resembles what all organizations are about, but for the Bruins, that’s really part of their culture,” stressed Boutilier.
“For them, it’s like they show up every day, and they put in the work, and the results take care of themselves and not overthink things.” Self-confidence comes from within and plays a massive role in any player’s growth and development. Boutilier isn’t the least bit surprised at Zboril’s early success with the Black and Gold this season.
“Jakub does everything well and smoothly; I really like the evolution of his game.” “I think he will score more points gradually and play the power plays and the rest of it as he continues to evolve as a player because that’s the way he approaches things, in a very controlled fashion.”
Without a doubt, Boutilier is in a result-oriented business. However, as a consultant, he can take on a mentorship role providing invaluable guidance, support, but more importantly, acting as a sounding board for the players he works with. Boutilier only worked with Zboril for a two-year span which seems like an eternity ago in hockey terms, but those two years were the foundational years for a young player trying to find his blueprint to success in North American.
The Bruins organization and its passionate, loyal fanbase have embraced Zboril’s evolution, and there’s no question he is living up to and meeting the lofty expectations of being a first-round draft pick. Boutilier’s approach towards the position and teaching philosophy is quickly becoming the stuff of legend around the hockey world.
Boutilier has definitely admired Zboril’s resurgence and stellar play from afar. “Jakub is a really good fit there in Boston and has really done well.”
“I’m really glad things worked out and that Jakub has come through the last few years and has earned back his development and the confidence of the guys around him.” “I think he will be a really good fit for a while for sure,” stressed Boutilier.
A player’s proficiency growth and development can be drastically affected by their surroundings and environment. Everyone in the B’s organization would have loved to see Zboril take flight instantly, but that didn’t happen. The organization’s patience has paid dividends for the young rearguard’s confidence, development, progression, and performance.
“The B’s had the luxury of having a bunch of “D” and having a good team, so they weren’t forced to make those early moves to bring people in that weren’t ready, which is prudent.” “They run a really good program in Providence, they have a mentality there, you go in there it’s like you’re playing the Boston Bruins, it really trains them well for what they have going forward for players that are coming in there.”
“For Jakub, I think it was just a matter of when with him and for him to kind of decide where the confidence was. He can move pucks with the best of them; he’s strong, has a great shot, does everything smoothly. He has everything a really nice player would have,” explained Boutilier. For many critics and those on the outside looking in saw Zboril as draft a bust.
“Once you get to know the player personally, there’s a lot of care there; he has always wanted it, he’s always wanted to be a hockey player, and I’m really glad he’s got some traction in Boston, and it worked out.”
“The Bruins stood with him, and he stood by the Bruins.” “There was no one prouder to be a Boston Bruin than Jakub Zboril on draft day.”
“He’s had some traction now, and he’s a really effective player. In today’s game, he has a bit of that jam to him at times, but he moves the puck well; he’s always been a great passer of the puck,” said the former Bruin defender who played 52 games for the B’s in 1986-87. “I’ve watched a few of the Bruins games this season; he’s moving pretty quick out there, and he’s making plays under pressure that he has the skill to make, and things are coming together very fast.”
Boutilier’s philosophy on confidence and development is incredibly simplistic but profound. “You don’t get confidence all in one day; you keep chipping away at it.”
“Now that Jakub has a bunch of confidence, he’s going to be a real solid player.” Jakub Zboril has discovered the blueprint to success at the National Hockey League level after years of working on every aspect of the design.
“It’s never a short ride to the NHL; you know there are only 700 people that make it there; it’s not easy,” confessed Boutilier, who played 329 career NHL games. “I think the Bruins always knew it,” Boutilier said of Zboril’s potential.
“Some players get there quicker and don’t last as long while others get there later and last longer with some players that are in between.” Jakub Zboril has arrived, and it appears he won’t be going anywhere for quite some time.