Zak Zborosky found himself in a strange place this off-season — the fourth line. While the rest of the Kootenay Ice were wrapping up their preseason, Zborosky gave up his first line spot to go to Traverse City, Michigan and play with the New York Rangers in an annual prospects tournament.
As an unsigned, undrafted free agent invitee, Zborosky — the top scorer for the Ice last season — was overshadowed by higher profile names including college standout Jimmy Vesey of Harvard and Russian prospect Pavel Buchnevich, who played last season in the KHL.
It was an eye-opening experience for Zborosky, who is entering his final year of WHL eligibility, and desperately needs to prove that he has what it takes to make it to the next level.
“It [was] a really good learning experience to go down there and see how everything works,” Zborosky said about the Traverse City tournament. “The pace of play in the games is so much faster and everyone is a lot bigger.”
He said however that his biggest takeaway from the whole experience, was how much effort played into being a professional hockey player.
“Everyone is around the same skill level [it’s] just that some guys want it more,” he explained. “The compete is just so intense.”
In Traverse City, Zborosky also got an opportunity to play with a number of other WHL players. Ty Ronning (VAN), Ryan Gropp (SEA), Sergey Zborovskiy (REG), Reid Duke (BDN) and Colton Bobyk (RD), all lined up alongside him with the blueshirts.
“It was actually kind of nice [playing with WHL rivals], you finally get to meet these guys you’ve played against so many times,” he said. “Everyone’s super friendly and great guys.”
As he enters this season, Zborosky has a lot of motivation to perform at a high level. Not only does he want to avenge last season and finish his final WHL campaign on a strong note, he now knows what areas of his game he has to improve to play professionally.
“For the most part [I need to work on my] consistency and control the game a bit more this year, have the puck [on] my stick more,” he said. “I [also] struggle sometimes with getting open for passes, so I’ve got to work on that [but] other than that [I have to just] play hard and hope for the best.”
Already in his first two games this season, Zborosky has shown his commitment to being an offensive leader for this rebuilding Kootenay squad. He scored the team’s first goal of the year, in the opening period of their game in Calgary, and had several more golden chances the following night in Cranbrook.
Zborosky may have been a small fish amongst the Rangers, but here in Cranbrook, he’s more than welcome on the first line.