Welcome to another installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.
With two of the first dozen selections — picks #6 and #12 overall — the Blue Jackets have a chance to grab two players (for the second straight draft) that could become mainstays on the roster for years to come. There are plenty of names to be considered ahead of the July 7 date, in this wide-open draft.
While several mock drafts have him going before the Blue Jackets' first selection with the sixth overall pick, David Jiricek might interest the club due to his size and position. Jiricek is a 6-foot-3 190lb. defenseman, who, like many of the others in this draft, is only 18 years old and will undoubtedly bulk up over the next few years, as he works with NHL strength coaches.
He is slated to go anywhere from fourth to ninth overall in most mock drafts, with the majority of them having the Czechian Defender going fifth or earlier. Depending on how enamored the Blue Jackets become with Jiricek, this may necessitate them moving up a slot or two to select him.
The only concern about Jiricek is that he injured his knee and had surgery on it back in January, but he came back in March and has played 29 games for his club, HC Skoda Plezn. Therefore most concerns about how his knee would affect him going forward have been abated.
He just finished his third season playing for HC Skoda Plezn in the top professional league in the Czech Republic. He is big-bodied and aggressive physically, so he has been an asset on the defensive end since he came into the league. Not only has he progressed even further on that side of the puck, but he has begun to add offense to his game, this season, as well. His stat line in 2022 was 5-6-11 in 29 games.
He is coming into this draft billed as an all-around defenseman. He is ranked anywhere from the 2nd to the 11th highest NHL Draft prospect by most scouting services. DobberProspects has him ranked as their number seven prospect.
This is what they had to say about Jiricek.
Nick Richard: Jiricek is having a strong season for a draft-eligible defender in the top Czech professional league but had what should have been his coming-out party at the World Juniors cut short due to a knee injury suffered in Czechia’s first game. The tournament was postponed shortly thereafter so we wouldn’t have gotten much of a look at Jiricek against his peers anyway, but the injury has kept him on the shelf since then.
Despite the injury, Jiricek has maintained his standing from our December rankings. He is a talented and creative offensive presence from the back end who possesses good size and mobility, allowing him to push the issue in the offensive zone. He isn’t afraid to attempt high-risk passes and he identifies his options in an efficient manner in order to find success on those plays. Jiricek’s shot has also grown into a decent weapon and his one-timer can beat goaltenders from the point.
A big-bodied defender, Jiricek doesn’t shy away from physical play either and will step up to finish a big hit in the neutral zone when he sees an opportunity. He will have to continue to refine his decision-making process in terms of when to step up and be aggressive but his overall defensive game has shown improvement throughout the year. He has continued to show progress in the way that he establishes body position to box out in front of the net and engage in battles along the wall, and that should help him make the adjustment to the next level.
Jiricek may not be quite as much of a sure thing as Simon Nemec but his potential could be just as high and he shouldn’t have to wait around long to hear his name called on draft day.
DobberProspects April Rankings
Jiricek may not have as high of a ceiling as some of the defenders that have come out of the draft in recent years, but he is big, tough, aggressive, and possesses a developing offensive game as well. Most scouts see his ceiling as a top pairing defenseman, even if it is unlikely that he will turn into a star.
The question is, how will the Blue Jackets value him. Will they jump at the chance to beef up the size of their blue line and get someone viewed by many as likely to be good if not great, or will they look elsewhere?
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