We have to admit that the announcement that the Rangers had signed Tomas Zaborsky to an NHL entry level contract was a bit of a surprise to us. We really did not think the Rangers were going to offer Zaborsky an NHL contract but rather an AHL one so to save a spot out of the 50 contract limit.
However before we talk about Zaborsky there is a number we want to point out about his draft class (2006). With this signing, the Rangers have signed and added to their system 4 (Sanguinetti, Anisimov, Hillier and now Zorro) which is a good number for a draft.
Do not get us wrong we like Zorro as he is a very polite nice young man but at the same time the Ranger talent pool is full of smallish forwards.
We seriously question that Zaborsky has grown 2 inches since he was drafted in 2006 and if he has then he will be the smallest 6'1 player in the pipeline. The pictures we have used of Zaborsky over the last couple of seasons (which we are posting today) kind of indicate that Zaborsky is not the biggest dog in the yard.
We mean no slight to Zaborsky's size but we have to be realistic about where to project him at the NHL level. As much as we like Zorro we think the odds are against him unless he makes some heavy duty improvements in certain areas.
The path in front of him has Dawes, Prucha and Callahan ahead of him on the Rangers. The Wolfpack has Zorro's old teammate with Saginaw Tom Pyatt and Alex Bourret already in place but Zaborsky also has one thing going for him that few know.
Zaborsky has fooled the experts before and he just might do it again here so let us break down Zaborsky's game. One has to start with his good points which that out of 68 games the longest that Zaborsky went without any points was a streak of 4 games.
As we watched Zaborsky over the season, it was clear when Zaborsky scored then his Saginaw Spirit team had a much better chance of winning. During what we felt was Zaborsky's best period of the season a 6 game scoring streak (3-7-10) the Spirit defeated 5 of the OHL's best teams including Belleville and Kitchener on back to back game.
Want some more consistency then how about his point totals every month: 13, 10, 12, 10, 13. Yes that is in order so what you are seeing is exactly how he produced during the season as Zaborsky finished the season as the 3rd leading scorer on what was supposed to be a rebuilding Saginaw Spirit team.
Zaborsky never seems to make a whole lot of noise with his game as it tends to sneak up but averaging a little over a point a game over a season does draw attention. Another area that people are unaware of is his discipline as Zaborsky only had 42 PIMs for the season.
That is not bad but what stands out is that Zaborsky had 32 of those PIMs during the first 35 games of the season but over the last 32 games only 10. To cut down on your PIMS like that takes a lot especially in today's OHL.
Zaborsky scored 31 goals this past season which over the season broke down as 2, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3 which is where we start our "dark side" of Zaborsky. During the middle of the season Zaborsky was a solid scorer but as you see he tailed off towards the end of the season.
Remember that streak we pointed out? It was the best of the season for Zaborsky but after that streak ended basically so did Zaborsky. Only 2 goals (same game) over his last 7 games as the Spirit backed into the OHL playoffs after almost jumping up to 5th.
There is also a side of Zaborsky that nobody outside of us really noticed which was that the Spirit had a tendency to use a "bodyguard" on Zaborsky's line at even strength. Unlike his countryman, David Skokan, Zaborsky did not have a single fighting major as his "bodyguard" was always there to protect him.
Despite the Ranger's claims of his growth spurt, Zaborsky typically was the smallest player on the ice. We have not question about his offense and we even think his defense never gets enough credit but we have serious questions as to whether or not Zaborsky can hand the bigger stronger and meaner NHL (AHL ) players.
Zaborsky in our eyes is a 3rd liner at best, Zorro needs as players like to say "more backbone" or we are going to wonder if Zaborsky will be able to handle it when the NHL players run him over. Will he jump right back up as Prucha does or will he hear "footsteps"?
We think that Zaborsky will adapt to the speed of the AHL next season, we also think that his defensive skills will surprise a lot of folks who only know of his offensive game. The question will be how he handles the physical pounding every night as the players are going to be a lot bigger than what he is used to playing with.
Zaborsky is a quiet player but we think he has to have the Wolfpack's enforcers as his linemates which might cut down on his numbers.
We hope we are wrong as we hope Zorro leaves his mark and does make it to the NHL.
(Picture Credits All pictures courtesy of the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL)
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