When the Blue Jackets recruited David Jiricek for the first round of the 2022 draft last month, the Czech defender made a new friend.
This friend also happens to be the fourth-best scorer of all time among NHL players who hails from the Central European country, as well as the active leader among Czech NHLers in matches and points.
Jacob Voracek He was one of the league’s biggest offensive producers over the past decade and just played his 1,000th NHL game last season with Columbus, making him a Czech legend and a great source for a young player from his homeland who was suddenly drafted by the organization.
Which is why when Jiricek’s phone rang the next day after he was picked sixth by the Blue Jackets, it wasn’t surprising who was on the other end of the line.
“It was great,” Jerichek said of the call from Vorak. “He’s an idol in the Czech Republic. I started watching him in 2010 and the Czech Republic won (the world championship), and he was there. So for me, he’s an idol.”
Video: Media Avail: Jiricek
The two could be teammates sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, Jiricek has plenty of business to take care of. Although he has had to battle the COVID situation that has kept him off the team in recent days – he is expected to be back on the team tomorrow – Jiricek is one of three Blue Jackets draft picks tagged to join the Czechs in the summer edition of the World Junior Championships that kicks off Tuesday in Edmonton.
Joining defender Stanislav Svozel (Third Round, 2021) and forward Martin Resavi (Round Seven, 2021), Gerishek is expected to be one of the top players in a squad hoping to make a profound advance. He has already played in the highly anticipated tournament twice, scoring two points in five games in the winter of 2020-21 and then sustaining a knee injury in last December’s event before being suspended due to the spread of the Corona virus.
Once this is done, Jiricek will begin the work of preparing for the upcoming season, which could be an exciting process in itself. He’s already played two full seasons in the Czech top league, totaling 8-12-20 streaks in 63 games for his hometown HC Plzen, and a move to a top European team, a North American junior team or maybe even the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters could be in the cards. .
Wherever he ends up, Jiricek is one of the top prospects in the Blue Jackets organization and he might not be too far from Columbus given his two-way game you can’t help but think it would perfectly complement Zach Werenski’s.
“It is quite unprecedented what he did at his age in the Czech league,” Jarmo Kekalainen, director general of the Bank of Japan, said in the draft constitution. “Playing in the Men’s World Championships (this summer), I was there myself and watched him play, and he was really good. He’s 6-4, he has a great frame to him, he has a great attitude. We love his personality, his competition and his skill level as well.”
Jiricek has been listed by The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler as the 18th-ranked potential player in hockey, thanks in part to a combination of size (6-3, 189) and skill at both ends of the ice that impressed the scouts. While many see his imposing personality and strong nature and focus only on Jiricek’s abilities in the defensive area, he started his career as a striker and has good offensive instincts as a result.
Video: Jiricek accepts the CBJ logo
“He’s been an ex-forward, and that helps a lot,” said scout Milan Tisci, himself a native of Plzen, who has seen Jerecic play several times over the past few seasons. “I love his confidence. Even in the World Championships, the NHL players were there and he said, ‘I was shaking more because I played at the highest level ever,’ but I think he’s a guy after mistakes, he’s going to figure it out pretty quickly, and that’s a good thing.”
Offensively, Jerichek showed in the Jackets development camp after the draft that he’s in good hands in tight spaces, while praising a shot from the point where he can hit the net and lead to a handful of numbers in the lead up to the world’s youth. Defensively, his size and reach make him an imposing presence, but Jiricek knows he has to keep adding strength – a few more kilos, Tichy said – to be NHL-ready.
“I’d be two-way,” he said of his playing style. “I want to play the game of strength and kill on penalties as well. That’s my goal for the next two or three years. I think I need to improve my strength and some play in the defensive area. I think hockey feeling and shooting are my biggest strengths now. I like physical play, but I need to More power for North America.”
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