With less than a week before the Boston Bruins host the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins announced the free agent signing of Jeff Zehr. Drafted 31st overall by the Islanders in ’97, Zehr never came to terms with New York and now, at age 20, finds himself competing for a spot on the Boston Bruins roster. “I’m not going to Boston thinking that I’ll play a year in the minors,” Zehr told reporters of the Boston Globe following his signing. “I’m thinking I’ll make the club. I play a feisty game. I like to be involved out there, in all key situations.”
This future power forward, who has been compared to Brendan Shanahan, notched 24 goals in 57 games last year and knows what is expected of him. “The Bruins are keying on me, telling me I’ll get a chance – and now it’s up to me to make the most of it.” Voted by OHL coaches as the West Division’s most improved player for 1996-1997, Zehr should have no problems adjusting to the pro game assuming he can develop his game at the same pace.
Zehr has been regarded as being a good skater with effective puck handling abilities and a booming shot. In terms of Zehr’s offensive skills, he uses his adequate speed coming off the wing to drive to the net with determination, being a force to contend with in front of the net. Zehr has been regarded in junior as a power play point producer by his positioning around the net. Zehr is an abrasive player who stands up for his team mates if there is an altercation. Even if the 6’3 210 lbs. forward doesn’t turn out to be a scorer of note, there’s not much downside to a big, strong, hard-skating banger with character.
The only major knock on Zehr is his off-ice attitude. Zehr has had some problems following team policies and was subject to team suspension for breaking curfew. It is rumoured that Zehr’s off ice habits have affected his performance on the ice, which is why, according to former teammates his point production was low. If any coach in the NHL can reach out to Zehr and have him playing at the top of his game, there is no better candidate than Pat Burns.