Three Questions: David Jiricek Heads Into Training Camp With a Chance to Make His Mark on the Roster

By Coby Maeir on August 11, 2023 at 10:15 am
David Jiricek after being selected as the number six overall pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

David Jiricek is going to be a star.

Since the Blue Jackets selected Jiricek with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, he led AHL rookie defensemen in points/game (minimum 50 games) with six goals and 38 points in 55 games, was named the best defender at the 2023 IIHF World Juniors, and played four NHL games. 

Will Jiricek make the team out of training camp?

He'll certainly be given every opportunity as a 19-year-old. Even with a crowded group of defensemen that includes Damon Severson, Adam Boqvist, Andrew Peeke, Erik Gudbranson, Nick Blankenburg, and Jake Bean, Jiricek's ability might win him a spot on the opening night roster. 

Before the draft, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen considered it a luxury to have all of the defensemen that they do, so that if Jiricek isn't ready they don't have to rush him.

"But if he comes to the camp and he's our best defenseman," Kekalainen said. "Then we might have to do something."

It's early, but there's a chance Jiricek could be the team's best right-handed defenseman already. 

What will Jiricek's NHL role be?

The Blue Jackets drafted Jiricek to be a top-pair defenseman, and while he might not start there if he makes the team out of camp, he should get to that point if he plays up to his caliber. His monster one-timer should earn him some time on the power play, and his size and defensive ability should also land him on the penalty kill. It's too early to tell how Mike Babcock will deploy Jiricek when given the opportunity, and he's still just 19 years old, so expecting him to play 22-to-25 minutes against the other team's top-line every night might be too high of an expectation. 

What is Jiricek's offensive ceiling?

His aforementioned slapshot is going to be a huge plus throughout his career, both at even strength and on the power play. However, as long as Zach Werenski is available, it's going to be difficult for Jiricek to crack the top power-play unit, but he still may get time on the second unit. He certainly has the tools to be an effective offensive player in the NHL, but to what extent? Is he going to be a 60-point player? Probably not. But could he consistently score 40 points? Absolutely. 

In 2022-23, 12 defensemen scored at least 60 points, and eight more scored at least 50. In 2009-10, two defensemen scored 60 or more, with a total of seven blueliners reaching the 50-point plateau. The game has changed, but scoring 40 points as a defenseman is still extremely valuable, especially when Jiricek is projected to be elite on the defensive end.

David Jiricek is going to be a star. And probably sooner than later.