If David Jiříček is as good as he projects to be, he will not just be the kind of defender you can build your entire D-corps around, he will likely help raise Czechia’s standing in the hockey world. Primarily because while the Czechs have put dozens of quality NHL forwards out into the world, defense has always been...spotty for them, at least in the 21st century. Thankfully, they’ve found their man to help lead a new age of Czech defenders.
They didn’t have to look that hard, because while many players in this draft are good, or big. Very few of them are good and big at the same time.
David Jiříček is one of those lucky few.
What he’s good at:
While being 6’3 and fast is impressive, I think the first thing that stands out is just such an annoying player to play against.
Jiříček at 18 can recognize where and how the forecheck is going and simply shuts it down by getting himself EXTREMELY involved in the puck carrier’s day. He can move backwards as fast as he can forward, and can completely shut down passing lanes using excellent stickwork and positioning. He’s also a nightmare in transition, especially if he gets the chance to use that long wingspan to just slap pucks away from puck carriers like they’re nothing. He actively hounds players attempting to get the puck up ice, moving them out to the boards where low-danger shots live, and of course, use that big frame to mash dudes to pieces if he can line them up. All of this would be a good foundation for a defender like Jiříček. Maybe just enough to get him into the top 10. Where Jiříček got himself into the top 5 is that he unlocked some exceptional offense as well.
Jiříček isn’t just a defender who will pass it off to the nearest forward in order to get a clear; he’ll try to create a breakout. He will try risky passes, he will try to get the transition game going on his own with his impressive speed, and his shot? It’s strong. He’s a player able to get way more power behind the puck than you’d expect from passes and shots, and so when he finds an angle to get the pass off? It’s making it there. If he’s shooting it? the defense and goaltender better be tracking it well or it’s going straight past them: whether by their pads or ear.
What he’s not good at:
Staying healthy definitely jumped to the top of the list this year.
For as good as Jiříček is, his draft year was unfortunately cut rather short in his home league as he had a knee injury at the World Juniors derail his season entirely. Mercifully, he’s been able to make it to the IIHF World Championships in Finland, and played quite well for Czechia, and will probably join the re-started World Juniors in August.
The big “mechanics of the game” thing that he’ll need a little work on is consistent acceleration. Jiříček while moving laterally can suddenly turn on the jets with consistency, and when he’s at speed is pretty impressive; but getting him up to speed in open ice is a little difficult due to his somewhat choppy, short stride. You usually want smooth, long strides, and that’s something that the Kraken are going to have to work out with the training staff of Coachella Valley and/or his CHL team, whose rights appear to belong to the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL.
Also you could maybe pack about 20 pounds on him with a couple of years of good diet and training. But that’s “let him get to age 21 of being in contact with the NHL trainers” concerns.
Like I said last week, Simon Nemec vs. David Jiříček is a philosophical choice: Do you want a first pairing defenseman who can quarterback your power play and use his smarts and skill to cut down opposing team’s chances? Or do you want uncomplicated aggression and power? Both are excellent choices for a team like the Kraken who need all the help they can get.
You’d be getting someone to build your defense around for the next decade or so anyway, so why not?
|2019-20||HC Plzen U17||Czechia U17||5||1||6||7||4|
|HC Plzen U20||DHL Cup||24||6||11||17||10|
|SHC Klatovy (Loan)||Czech 3rd League||0||0||0||0||0|
|Czechia U17||Czechia U17||12||5||6||11||12|
|Czechia U18||Czechia U18||3||2||1||3||4|
|Czechia U20||Czechia U20||8||1||1||2||2|
|Czechia U20||Czechia U20||8||0||5||5||6|