BUFFALO — Jay Leach and Jakub Zboril are in agreement: the 20-year-old rookie had a tough time in Friday’s game against Pittsburgh.
“I think he struggled,” Leach said after the team skated this morning.
“He looked a little tentative to me. You saw glimpses of his physicality and the way he can close and do those sorts of things. But, overall, he’d like to be a bit more aggressive and use that a lot more. (His play against the Pens) tells me you’re thinking too much or you’re not in the moment, you’re not enjoying the game.”
List at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, Zboril was drafted in the first round, 13th overall, in 2015. With a strong camp, he could be in the hunt for an NHL job, but Providence is a more likely destination this season.
“We talked to him this morning and hopefully he’ll get more involved and get out there and really make a difference, because he can. He’s got that ability. Whether he was nervous or whatever, he was tentative (on Friday),” said Leach.
Zboril, who says that his skating and physicality are the strongest facets of his game, owned up to his struggles vs. the Pens.
“Last night, I don’t think it was optimal for me. I’m not really happy for what I did last night. I know I have to step up. (Last night) I had a hard time skating, first game after a long break. I have to step up,” he said after the morning skate.
“My mindset right now is I know there is one spot open (in Boston) for one left D. So I’m just going to have to battle through this camp and (Boston’s) training camp. I have to show that I really want that spot. I have to battle for it.
“If it happens, it happens. If not, I go to Providence, fine, I’ll just have to battle through. I have to work my hardest right now and see what happens,” he said.
All eyes will be on Charlie McAvoy when the Bruins play the Sabres tonight, but Zboril will be in the spotlight, too, as McAvoy’s partner.
Leach is hoping that some of McAvoy’s zest for the game rubs off on Zboril.
“Obviously, Charlie’s a gifted player. He’s got that little sparkle in his eye every time he hits the ice. Hopefully, Jake can see that and it can kind of filter through to the other side of that pairing. Charlie is a gamer and he wants to play, whether it’s pickup hockey or in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” said Leach.
Sabres on tap tonight
Sabres.com will stream tonight’s 7 o’clock game.
Luke Richardson, a camp invite from Kitchener of the OHL, will start in goal for Boston.
Leach on Debrusk
After a good rookie year in Providence, Jake Debrusk is expected to make a strong push for an NHL job in camp.
“He looked, really, pretty good in (Saturday morning’s) practice. More than anything, he looks like he’s grown a year, he’s a year older. He’s had another summer, you can tell he’s worked out, he’s powerful,” said Leach.
“He’s got a great release, he’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas. He’s an up and down winger and he’s got some polish. He’s got straight-line speed. Who is that in the NHL? I’m not going to put that on him. But he has a lot of NHL potential.
“I wouldn’t put a cap on (how far he can go). It’s way too early for that. Brad Marchand when he was with the Providence Bruins was, I think, a fourth-line left winger. I would never want to put a ceiling on someone like that, and Jake has serious potential to really be anything – first, second, third or fourth line winger,” Leach said.
Watching practice on Saturday morning, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said he thought Conner Clifton was the best defenseman for the Bruins on Friday.
On Saturday, Clifton will play with Rob O’Gara. It’s a pairing of a former Quinnipiac Bobcat (Clifton) and an ex-Yale Bulldog (O’Gara).
Grzelcyk on Grant
First-year pro Matt Grzelcyk and veteran Alex Grant were one of Providence’s go-to defense pairs last season.
Heading into his second season, Grzelcyk appreciates the help he received from Grant, who signed with Minnesota in July.
“He was someone who kind of settled my nerves out there for a while. He’s a steady presence, had a big shot. Obviously, I like to dish the puck so I could just slide it over to him and (he would) let that slapshot go. He’s been up in the NHL for a bit earlier in his career. He took me under his wing. That really helped me out the whole year,” Grzelcyk said.