By: Scott Wood | Follow me on Twitter @ScottHoHPodcast
On Tuesday, the Bruins announced that defenseman Jakub Zboril had undergone successful surgery for a torn ACL and will be lost for the remainder of the NHL season. He sustained the injury on a hard but clean hit by Predators forward Tanner Jeannot during a Bruins 2-0 victory in Nashville on December 2 and has missed the last six games with what was deemed a “lower-body injury.”
The result of the hit looked disastrous immediately. Zboril didn’t move for about ten seconds after his right knee ricocheted off the boards, and upon attempting to get to his feet the first time, he collapsed back down to the ice in obvious pain. He ultimately had to be helped off the ice by teammates Patrice Bergeron and Taylor Hall, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Zboril played 42 games on the first of a two-year contract extension he signed in 2020-21 and another ten this season as he was put into action in an attempt to get more out of a struggling Bruins blueline. While 50 games in the last season and a half are the majority, Zboril had never truly seemed to cement his place in the lineup during that time.
He appeared to be turning a corner; however, this season, as a newly confident and decisive Zboril came right out of the gate. Employed similarly to Jeremy Lauzon as a “swing” defender able to skate either side, he was equally effective in both roles and paired well with whoever he was partnered with. For the first time since he was chosen in the now infamous Bruins’ first round of the 2015 Entry Draft, Jakub Zboril contributed to the Bruins in a decidedly positive way and was helping to solidify a defense corps that was often maligned by inconsistency and costly turnovers.
This will likely cost Zboril the chance at the sizeable raise he would have been looking to earn had his play continued along his positive trajectory. His previous deal netted him a $725 thousand AAV over two seasons and was signed as a bridge to see where he would ultimately end up. He had played only 2 NHL games at the time of that signing, and despite his high draft pedigree, there was still little evidence to show that he would end up a regular in the NHL.
There may be fear with non-tenders of qualifying offers for forwards Nick Ritchie and oft-injured Ondrej Kase in the most recent off-season that Sweeney may decide to walk away from Zboril this year. There are many fans who are looking to make changes to the Bruins roster, which has the chance to look substantially different by the time that decision must be made. Along with the current depth down the left side with Grzelcyk, Reilly, and Forbort, OSU standout Mason Lohrei could surprise and make an earlier leap to the pros than expected. His progression since being drafted 58th overall in 2020 has been a far steeper curve than anticipated, and his 15 points in 18 games as a freshman tops all defenders on his team and sits only two shy of the team’s current lead. This may seem early, but Charlie McAvoy came into the playoffs for the Bruins one year removed from his draft year and never looked again looked back.
I think it’s fair to expect another short-term contract for Zboril, at least another season or two, regardless of what happens in front of him. The steadiness he displayed in his brief time in 2021 indicates the long-term potential value that the Bruins saw when they first selected him. And his ability to skate either side of the defense will be valuable either as an everyday asset or as solid depth when the inevitable injuries hit.
Bruins fans undoubtedly are wishing him a full recovery and hope to see him in Black-and-Gold at the start of the 2022-23 season.