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Adam Jiricek : In-Depth Scouting Report

Cadet of the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman, Adam Jiricek is a player in whom I had a lot of hope in anticipation of the 2024 draft. Having seen him play in various international tournaments at 16 (in the under-18 group), I firmly believed that a selection among the first five players called in this draft was possible. It goes without saying that his season did not go as expected. He was forced to miss the entire second half of the season following a nasty injury suffered at the WJC. And let’s be frank, the sampling that he provided us before this injury wasn’t the most convincing.

In many ways he resembles his brother David on the ice. He has a posture that is very similar and opts for a selection of offensive plays that are similar. It is mainly in his puck distribution that the most obvious comparisons between the two are made. Adam is very bold offensively and makes many of his most exciting plays from the right side as he likes to get rid of his coverer with a shoulder fake and then skates along the boards, low in the offensive zone. Last year he managed to make cross-ice passes inside these sequences, which was essentially a carbon copy of what I’ve seen countless times with his brother, but this season his success rate for these plays was not as high so he often opts to keep the puck behind the goaltender’s net. By making these incursions deep into enemy territory, the opposing defense ‘collapses’ as players move down to protect the slot, this opens up considerable space for Jiricek’s teammates who are stationed at the blue line (his D partner as well as a forward covering his departure). Even though these plays have not offered much concrete results this season, I believe that using it properly, his audacity in these situations could pay dividends in the future.

Besides that, Jiricek also demonstrates very interesting flashes as he has a penchant in his game for making cross-ice passes to a player located at the goal-mouth. For a defender, these are difficult passes to make, but if they connect, they become very dangerous. What Jiricek does well is that he never makes eye contact with the intended target, which brings a big aspect of deception and unpredictability to his puck-distribution.

However, his offensive arsenal is reduced due to the weakness of his shot. It’s a shame, because I like the positioning that precedes his shots during the power play. Jiricek knows how to get into advantageous positions, like inside the left circle to use his one-timer. The problem is that he doesn’t have the power to beat goalkeepers. His wrist shots from the blue line are also rarely threatening.

What bothers me most about his shooting is the way he sets it up. I mentioned a certain unpredictability with his distribution of the puck, and it’s quite the opposite when it comes to his shooting.

We see a good example here

Jiricek has the entire center of the offensive zone at his disposal, as well as a passing-option on the left flank.

He will favor shooting in this sequence, but to be comfortable, he must rotate his hips towards the boards, giving the defensive coverage time to adjust. It also becomes predictable for the goalkeeper and he himself has just eliminated the passing option to his left.

More and more, I observe certain particularities among prospects where they will master a subcategory of a skill at a high level, but will present crucial flaws in this same skill. This often occurs in players’ skating. Jiricek does not escape this anomaly.

As far as I’m concerned, the right-handed defender has very good ‘Edge Work’. He manages to use the inside or outside of his skate blades with precision to break away from an opponent’s pressure. I also appreciated a few sequences where, trying to block the path of an opponent who was trying to get around him, Jiricek continued to push with his back skate to keep pace from his rival and to maintain a good gap-control.

On the other hand, although eye-catching, we must not let this distract ourselves from the more important aspects of skating for a defender, which are unfortunately not achieved in the case of Jiricek.

It is particularly when he has to pivot on the offensive blue line that we observe worrying shortcomings in Jiricek’s skating. Not only are his pivots rather slow, but the strides that follow lack a lot of power, which means that an opposing forward can quickly create separation from him. His strides are much too short, while we observe no extension at the hip in his strides, not involving the muscles of the gluteal complex.

I still have some hopes that he will manage to correct this last point to a certain extent, because, at the moment, Jiricek is very raw physically. At 6’2, he currently only weighs 168 lbs.

One of the reasons that keeps me from dropping him too low is that I really like the intensity with which he plays. A personal acquaintance of mine played in the Czech Republic during the 2021-2022 season and I remember a discussion I had with him in the summer about David Jiricek. He told me that every time he faced him, David, barely 18 years old, would run after him on the ice to, I quote him, “rip his head off.” He was highly impressed with the young defender’s level of competition, and for your information, said person is not a small customer either! We’re talking about a player around 6’2 who does very well when he drops the gloves.

It takes a very special DNA to approach each games as if they were a real trench war. Adam is cut from the same cloth as his brother, he loves to hit and play physical.

He presents a particular aggressiveness and approaches each physical confrontation as if defeat was simply not an option. When he plays with his age group, we have seen him dish out some very impactful hits in the center of the ice.

Even if he doesn’t reach the potential that I saw in him last year, I look at what is asked of a defenseman and I believe that Jiricek still offers a lot of substance by winning his battles for the puck and cleaning the front of his net when an opponent ventures there.

On the other hand, I would have difficulty selecting him high in the draft if I did not have another high pick. This is what makes ranking him so difficult. At the start of the season, I wrote an article on players I was wronged about from the last two drafts and when I look at the themes that emerge, they all fit Jiricek…

– A player in whom I have a certain favorable anchoring bias due to his play the season prior.

– A player whose offensive production does not seem representative of the eye-test at first glance.

– And most importantly, a player whose physical projection remains very uncertain.

In the past, I used to rank players with this type of profile (low Body Mass Index and date of birth towards the end of summer, indicating that the player is one of the youngest in his class) very aggressively, believing that when they caught up with their peers in terms of physical development, they would reach an even higher level.

That said, when I look at my past mistakes, many of them involve players who ultimately were never able to progress physically and their weaknesses in their game saw no improvement. To work in the field of Kinesiology, I am well positioned to see that it is naive to believe that making significant progress in the physical department is within everyone’s reach.

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