Columbus Blue Jackets 2023-24 player review, David Jiricek spent his year developing

Penciled into the opening night lineup by nearly everyone; David Jiricek instead spent a good chunk of his season developing in the AHL. But it feels like patience is about to pay off for the Blue Jackets.
Minnesota Wild v Columbus Blue Jackets
Minnesota Wild v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

David Jiricek voiced his frustration at points this season, but it's hard to argue with keeping him in the AHL for much of the year. The Blue Jackets were set up for failure; and playing him 20+ minutes per night in Cleveland made a lot more sense than letting him get shelled in the NHL.

In the end, Jiricek played roughly half the season in Columbus, which isn't all that bad for a 20-year-old defenseman. Allowing him to develop in the AHL this year means that this team will now have a more polished David Jiricek heading into next season.

That seems to have been the goal all along. It's just unfortunate that the club bungled their communication with him in that regard.

After going out last summer and inking Damon Severson to an 8-year contract, the Jackets entered this season heavy with right shot defensemen. Aside from Jiricek, I counted 7 players who had NHL experience, all vying for time on the right side.

It was going to be tough for him to play in the NHL full-time this season. For him to do that, he needed to show that he was unequivocally ready to take on the role. Early on, it was somewhat evident that he was not.

While he had some really good moments, we were often left puzzled by some questionable decision making. Unfortunately, he wasn't high enough on the depth chart to earn power-play time - which might have given him the chance to mask the occasional glaring mistake.

In the end, he posted modest numbers in the NHL this season. But Jiricek did stand out in the AHL, where he scored 7 goals and 19 points in 29 games. Better yet, his game has ramped way up for the Monsters in their playoff run: currently he has 3 goals and 9 points in 9 playoff games.

Despite being taken 6th overall at the 2022 NHL Draft, it was well known that Jiricek's game needed refining. At 6'4" and over 200 pounds, he has the frame and all of the tools you want in a future top pairing defenseman. But his skating still needs some improvement, and he has to learn how to read and time plays better on the defensive side of the puck.

The NHL is not the place for him to learn those nuances. But, I have full confidence in his ability to be a huge part of the future for the Jackets.

Final season stats: 43gp, 1g, 9a, 10pts, -4, 22PiMs, 38SOG. . David Jiricek 2023-24 season grade:. David Jiricek 2023-24. C-

He gets a passing grade for this year because he didn't play terribly in the NHL - and he continues to be strong in the AHL. Look for him to make the leap full time next year.