Columbus Blue Jackets 2023-24 Season Preview: David Jiricek

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: David Jiricek #55 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 30, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Blue Jackets 7-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: David Jiricek #55 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 30, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Blue Jackets 7-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Through a tumultuous season rocked by injuries, the Blue Jackets showed tremendous patience with top defense prospect David Jiricek last year. They kept him in the AHL for almost the whole season, allowing him to gain seasoning and experience. Will he be ready to make an impact at the NHL level this year?

D David Jiricek

6’3″, 209 pounds

2022-23 stats: 55GP 6G, 32A, 38Pts, -11, 36PIMs (Cleveland, AHL)

Acquired: Drafted 1st round (#6 overall), 2022 NHL Draft

Contract: $918k through 2025-26 (ELC)

Role: Top defense prospect – on the roster bubble

By the time we know the full scale of the massive trade that sent star defenseman Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks two summers ago, it’s entirely possible that David Jiricek will wind up being the best player moved in that deal. While the trade happened before he was drafted, the Jackets acquired a pick that wound up sixth overall, landing the big Czech defenseman who will very likely be the team’s replacement for Jones in the near future. After being picked by the Jackets last summer, Jiricek arrived in North America with somewhat limited fanfare (really, not much fanfare outside of the Blue Jacket organization).

But quickly, he started to prove his value by dominating at the AHL level, putting up numbers rarely seen by a teenaged defenseman. Ultimately, he finished the year with 6 goals and 38 points for the Monsters – most by any defenseman, and finishing third on the entire team in scoring. Still, the Jackets felt the need to continue being patient with Jiricek, adding veteran Damon Severson to an already-crowded right side of their blueline this summer. Making the team this fall will be no easy task … and that’s exactly the situation you want to have your top prospects in. If he makes the team, it’s because he’s ready. If he’s not ready, well, you’re still covered at the NHL level, and you can wait until he is.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – APRIL 08: David Jiricek #55 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck during the third period against the New York Rangers at Nationwide Arena on April 08, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO – APRIL 08: David Jiricek #55 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck during the third period against the New York Rangers at Nationwide Arena on April 08, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images) /

Three keys to success:

  1. Prove you belong. While David was really good in the AHL all year, his brief call-ups to the NHL were very underwhelming. He looked like a teenager out there, which is completely fine. He was. This year, if he wants his shot, he has to come to camp ready to make a difference. The skill is there on both sides of the puck.
  2. Use those tools. He has a big shot, as well as a big frame that he likes to use to separate players from pucks. Using these tools could make him stand out in camp, and separate him from some of the other contenders for NHL jobs this fall.
  3. Dominate with Z. Sounds easy, right? Yeah, not so much. But, stating the facts here: Erik Gudbranson has the right side of the third defense pairing locked down. Damon Severson could play on the top pair, but is probably better suited in a second pairing role with fellow newcomer Ivan Provorov. In my opinion, David Jiricek will probably need to show that he can contribute in minutes alongside Zach Werenski if he’s going to stick around. Otherwise, the team might opt to push him off for another season in favor of Adam Boqvist, Nick Blankenburg, and Andrew Peeke.

Ultimately, this could really go either way. Jiricek has all of the tools you need to be a top pairing defenseman in this league. The only question is his level of readiness. After bolstering the back end, the team has the luxury of waiting this thing out and letting him season for another year, or even part of the year (ala Kirill Marchenko last season). If he makes the team, I think it’s because he’s proven ready to play top-four minutes, and that should get us all really excited. He’s one of the top prospects in hockey, and if he is ready, he changes the complexion of the entire organization. He’s that good.

CBJ 2023-24 Season Preview: Kent Johnson. dark. Next