Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com has submitted his annual rankings of the top 30 draft-eligible prospects. Check back each day as we prepare for the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on June 26-27.
|(Photo Credit: St.John Sea Dogs) |#20 - JAKUB ZBORIL
Defenseman, Saint John (QMJHL)
6’0.75”, 196 lbs.
The Czech-born rearguard pleasantly surprised the scouting community this past season – his first in North America – thanks to his elite skating game and three-zone competency.
The nimble Zboril quickly adapted to his surroundings and gradually improved on his raw skill base throughout the year, giving teams a glimpse of a future do-it-all defender once he gets a few more seasons of experience under his belt.
The talented defender can wheel and deal with the puck, giving him plus value as a potential power-play quarterback. He has a hard, low slap shot that regularly gets through to the net and he can see the ice well from the point, zipping crisp passes diagonally across the ice to his wingers down low.
On top of it all is a willingness to hit with authority.
The final assessment saw the rookie pass his first North American test with flying colors. Zboril piled up 13 goals, 33 points and 73 PIM in just 40 appearances. He was sidelined for eight weeks with a knee injury, but still managed to be named one of three finalists for Top Professional Prospect and Defensive Rookie of the Year at the QMJHL’s season-ending Golden Puck Awards.
While some defensive zone refinement will be ordered, Zboril has a certain upside that may see him emerge as the highest performer in the 2015 defensive crop.
NHL coaches may ask for him to play a simpler even-strength game that should lead to easier decisions being made, but pending the addition of polish and consistency via increased reps, there is little doubt that the tools are in place for him to develop into a mainstay top-four defenseman at the NHL level.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.