Jakub Zboril has a chance to earn a regular spot in the Bruins’ lineup. After getting drafted 13th overall in 2015, he has yet to make an impact in Boston. Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Over five years have passed since the Boston Bruins selected Jakub Zboril 13th overall with their first of three first-round selections in a draft that remains the heaviest cudgel that critics can use to bash current management.

But after three full years in Providence and a development that’s had its share of zig-zags, this self-described “slow learner” may finally be ready for the National Hockey League. If so, there would be the happy coincidence of the Bruins finally having a legitimate opening or two on the left side of their defense, with Torey Krug moving on and Zdeno Chara’s future up in the air.

The opportunity is there. Now the 23-year-old Czech must seize it.

Zboril returned to Boston on Sunday after spending the fall playing for Brno Kometa in the Czech league, a fun experience for him during which he was able to play against his older brother, Adam, who plays for Mlada Boleslav BK.

But now, the focus is on making the Bruins. He’s at the start of his eight-day quarantine that will require four negative COVID-19 tests. If everything goes well, he expects to be on the ice by Monday, giving him a week to get back up to speed before the 10-day training camp.

Opening night is less than a month away, but the Bruins have to make some pretty significant determinations between now and then, and gauging if Zboril is the player they hoped he’d be when they drafted him five years ago is perhaps the biggest.

From draft day to this moment, Zboril’s road has had its bumps, to be sure. It was well known going into the draft that there was a top tier of defensemen that included Zach Werenski, Noah Hanifin and Ivan Provorov, all three of whom went before the Bruins’ spot at 13 and who are now well-established NHLers. The Bruins had hoped to make a deal to get in position to take one of them, but they couldn’t.

Still, conventional wisdom at the time had 6-foot, 200-pound Zboril at the top of the next tier, and after trading Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins needed to take a defensemen. The pick made sense.

Then with the next pick, the Bruins took Jake DeBrusk, who has proven his worth in the NHL. But then the Bruins went way off the board by taking Zach Senyshyn with the 15th pick. The criticism was almost immediate, and soon the Bruins’ entire first-round class of three began to feel the heat when players taken after them eventually began to make names for themselves in the NHL – Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Thomas Chabot.

It didn’t help matters that Zboril went back to juniors and struggled to start the next season. Pressure mounted.

“At the time, I had also sorts of social media, Instagram, Twitter and all that. And I just kept reading all the tweets that I suck. And it was just really getting in my head,” said Zboril.

He made the decision to delete those accounts and, despite some withdrawals, is glad he did.

“I’m a much happier person now,” said Zboril. “It took me like two days to get used to it, because I was like, oh my God, I didn’t know what was happening around me. But after a couple of days, I realized that it gave me such a freedom that I didn’t worry about anyone else and I was going my own way.”

While Zboril had made the transition to North America as a junior, he conceded he still had a lot to learn about being a professional when he got to Providence. He not only had to get to practice on time, but be ready to get his work done in that practice.

“I’m a slow learner, so I had to take it step-by-step. It was a journey, maturity-wise,” said Zboril.

In his second pro season, he got called up to Boston for two games, the first one in Dallas, when the Bruins blue line was crushed by injuries. It didn’t go well, and he admitted then, as he does now, that it was too much, too soon.

“I remember like it happened yesterday,” said Zboril. “I was not in a really good state. I was called up and I wasn’t at my best hockey at that time, so when I had to make that step and play in the NHL, I was a little bit overwhelmed. But right now, I feel really good and confident in myself. I feel it’s going to go much better.”

Zboril had a slow start to last year in Providence and did not get called up. But by the end of the season, he was one of the best players on the back end for Providence.

“I would say I still have to shoot more, that’s what the coaches tell me all the time,” said Zboril. “But other than that, I feel like I grew a lot, both as a player and as a person. So I think I’m ready to make the next step.”

SCHEDULE: The Bruins will start their 56-game regular season on the road at New Jersey on Jan. 14.

The Bruins will play a division-only schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time since the league’s 1966-67 expansion, playing in the new East Division, with eight games each against the Devils, Buffalo, the Islanders, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

The top four teams from each division will qualify for the playoffs, where the first two rounds will involve intra-divisional play. The four remaining teams will then be reseeded for the final two rounds of the postseason.

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