When you watch David Jiricek work the blueline for Plzen of the Czech Extraliga, you’d never know he was the youngest player on the team. Yet the 18-year-old plays with such confidence and makes so many moves with the puck on his stick that it’s no surprise he has been one of the team’s top-scoring blueliners. “I feel very good so far,” Jiricek said. “The team is awesome, good teammates and staff, so it’s very good for us. We’ve played very well so far.”
This is Jiricek’s second season playing with Plzen’s Extraliga squad, and with nine points in 20 games, he had already tied his offensive totals from his entire rookie campaign. Having a former NHL defenseman on the team in Jakub Kindl has helped the youngster, while increased ice time has allowed him to flourish as a two-way threat with excellent mobility and size.
Jiricek – a big fan of NHLers such as Miro Heiskanen and Filip Hronek – still wants to take his skating to another level (though it’s pretty good already) and work on his defensive responsibilities, such as 1-on-1 play and switching off assignments in the slot. But the 2022 draft prospect has already served notice he is one of, if not the top defenseman available this summer.
Despite the pandemic, Jiricek had opportunities to give scouts a sneak-peek with a full international dance card last year. “That was an awesome experience,” he said. “I played world juniors and world under-18s, so it was a tough year internationally, and I was happy for that. Edmonton and Dallas were good and tough games.”
The Czechs lost to Canada in the quarterfinal of both tournaments but are hoping for a better result when the world juniors head back to Edmonton. Funny enough, it wasn’t Jiricek’s first trip to the Great White North, as he played at the famous Quebec Peewee tournament in 2016. “We went to the final in a big arena with 16,000 people,” he said. “It was a new experience and a good experience for me, so I was happy for that.”
Jiricek’s teammates on that Czech Knights squad included future Columbus draft picks Stanislav Svozil and Martin Rysavy, both of whom will likely join him at the WJC. Canada hasn’t been kind to the group so far, but with Jiricek’s command of the blueline, you can’t count the Czechs out, either.