Though he might not be the focal point of the Kootenay Ice forward ranks, 18-year-old Zak Zborosky is doing his best to grow into a bigger role in his second WHL season.
Zborosky found the score sheet last Saturday when the Kootenay Ice travelled to Spokane, grabbing his fourth goal of the campaign.
Despite sitting third in team scoring with eight points (4G, 4A), the 174-pound winger knows he can contribute more and his conversations with head coach Ryan McGill reflect that.
“They’re not always going to be good, but a lot of conversations, he is just trying to get me to elevate my game and play to where he thinks I can play,” Zborosky said Thursday afternoon prior to practice at Western Financial Place. “Sometimes I’m not always playing my best. He tries to get me going so I can play my best.”
Early in the season, Zborosky was tabbed by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service as a player to watch ahead of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
While the season has since resembled a bit of a roller coaster ride for both Zborosky and the rest of his teammates, there’s plenty of time for both to get back on track. The Ice sit last in the WHL with a 3-12-0-0 record heading into Friday’s tilt with Red Deer. The hope is a meeting with the Rebels helps spark that turnaround.
“Everyone’s got to come ready to play and we have to play a full 60 minutes,” Zborosky said. “We’ve got to be super competitive in a way. If we do that, follow the game plan, I think we can have success.
“We just need to come together as a group and be supportive. Times are hard but I think if we gel together more as a group, we can turn this around.”
Zborosky found early success against the Rebels this season, tallying a goal and two assists through two games against Kootenay’s Central Division rival. The Ice opened the 2014-15 WHL campaign with a 5-3 victory at the ENMAX Centrium Sept. 19. The next meeting between the two clubs wasn’t quite as close, as the Rebels came out with a 7-1 triumph Sept. 27.
“They play a pretty hard game and they’ve got some pretty good players on that team,” said forward Luke Philp. “We have to be ready right from the get go. I think we just have to be ready to work. That’s the bottom line.”
The Rebels come into Cranbrook winners of three consecutive contests, having most recently knocked off the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers by a 5-3 margin Tuesday night.
Boasting the likes of 2014 NHL first-round selections Conner Bleackley (Colorado Avalanche – 23rd overall) and Haydn Fleury (Carolina Hurricanes – seventh overall), the Rebels carry depth and firepower that will test a young Kootenay Ice team that will once again be without the services of Montreal Canadiens prospect Tim Bozon. The 20-year-old native of Valbonne, France isn’t expected to suit up at all this weekend as he continues to battle a lower-body injury that saw him miss Tuesday’s 5-0 home loss to the Prince Albert Raiders.
“You’ve got to find a way to lift your spirits a little bit sometimes, even though it’s hard,” Philp said. “All you can think about is [how] you can’t seem to win a game, you can’t seem to win a game. But you’re never going to win a game unless you get your spirits up and you come to the rink happy, wanting to win and wanting to play the best you can.”
Should Kootenay Ice defenceman Cale Fleury dress for Friday’s contest, it will mark the first time he faces off with older brother Haydn.
The Rebels defenceman was still in training camp with the Carolina Hurricanes when the two teams first met Sept. 19 and 27 in Red Deer.
Apart from Bozon, the Ice are expected to be without forward Jon Martin, who is still nursing the upper-body injury he suffered Oct. 17 against Regina. Defenceman Tyler King will also be out with a lower-body injury.