WILMINGTON — When Jakub Zboril was ushered in front of the media Thursday, he was told to stand in front of the locker that belongs to Zdeno Chara. Boston’s first pick in last month’s draft quipped, “I just got nervous right now.”
Although Zboril will not be replacing Chara any time soon, he is the team’s first attempt at replacing another of its defensemen, brought in the same day Dougie Hamilton was shipped to Calgary. Zboril, however, is likely years away from the NHL, though the No. 13 overall pick did sign an entry-level contract Wednesday.
Zboril has skills that excite the Bruins’ brass — impressive skating, playing with an edge — and there are issues the organization has already taken steps to address.
“On the ice he makes it look pretty easy — real smooth skater, moves the puck really well, defends really well because he’s such a good skater,’’ said development coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s a young kid. He still has a lot to learn. He’s come in here our first overall pick and it’s opened his eyes a little bit. We’ve talked to him. He knows what he needs to do to get better, and he’s going to do that. He’s a good kid.”
Asked to elaborate, Pandolfo said, “I just think what the Bruins expect, what type of conditioning level we expect here. He’s never been around the organization before, so I think that is something that is new to him.
“But 18-year-old kids, they’re young, they can eat what they want, they can do what they want. But once you get to this level, you’ve got to start taking care of yourself a little better off the ice. That’s one thing he’s going to do better.”
Zboril acknowledged he came into camp out of shape. He twisted his left MCL before the draft at national team camp. While it hasn’t bothered him during development camp this week, Zboril said he was unable to do much in the lead up, “So I got a little fat.”
Monday’s first day of camp was particularly difficult for Zboril as he attempted to get used to the organization and the pace and the demands. It has made the thought of training camp, which opens in September, even more intimidating.
“Right now I’m pretty scared of it because I’m not in the best shape,” Zboril said with a smile. “I’ll work on it and then I will be excited for it.”
Zboril said his knee is improving and he expects to be able to train as usual before rookie camp and main camp.
Something Zboril does bring is that edge, an extra piece to his game that was nurtured while playing with his brother and being coached by his father, Josef, for about six years until he was in the ninth grade.
“When my dad was coaching us, me and my brother, he always wanted to teach us to win every single game, every single shift, put out everything, so that’s from that,” Zboril said.
The expectation is that Zboril will return to St. John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he spent 2014-15, as he is not eligible for the AHL in 2015-16. There, Zboril scored 13 goals — third among rookie defensemen — and had 20 assists in 44 games with 73 penalty minutes.
Zboril said his return to St. John is not set in stone, adding, “Maybe some miracle will happen, who knows?”
So far, in just a couple of days at camp, his talent is evident. But even with his new contract in hand, there are no guarantees, something Zboril already seems to understand.
“It’s a really happy day for me and I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Zboril said of signing his deal. “But it’s just one [of many] steps and that’s all. A lot of hard work to be done.”
With the organization putting a focus on skating — bringing in Dynamic Skating director Kim Brandvold to serve as an on-ice instructor — Pandolfo said Danton Heinen has been the player who has stood out the most in those drills. “He really makes things look easy with the skating stuff, with the protecting pucks around the net,” Pandolfo said. “You can tell that he’s put a lot of work in the last year, so he makes it look easy out there, for sure.” . . . The Bruins plan to switch up development camp on Friday, starting with a scrimmage at 10:15 a.m. at Ristuccia Arena. So far they have been doing skating work and drills, rather than scrimmaging.