Another top pick from the 2022 draft is about to get his chance at the NHL level. The Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled David Jiricek from the minor leagues, after Adam Boqvist was moved to injured reserve. Boqvist suffered a broken foot in last night’s game and will miss six weeks.
Jiricek, 18, was the sixth-overall pick this summer, and has quickly shown that he may be ready for a level higher than the AHL. In five games with the Cleveland Monsters, the 6’3″ defenseman has four assists and has registered 12 shots on goal. Known for his size, reach, and blistering slapshot, the Czech defender already does have plenty of experience at the professional level.
He made his debut in the Czech league in 2020 and played two full seasons for Plzen HC before being selected by the Blue Jackets. He also played for Czechia at the World Championship earlier this year, helping his country to a bronze medal in a tournament filled with NHL talent.
While that offensive production from the AHL may not immediately follow him to the Blue Jackets, Jiricek’s future is extremely bright. He is a natural defender who is rarely out of position, already has enough strength to play against opponents much older than him, and can show a mean streak that can be intimidating in front of his own net.
Quite different from the player who he is replacing, it’s not clear exactly what kind of role Jiricek will get in Columbus. Boqvist, 22, is known best for his ability to jump into the rush (or start it himself) and was quarterbacking the team’s second powerplay unit. His playing time at even strength had actually been the second-lowest among Columbus defenders this year, meaning there won’t be a ton of minutes to carve up, especially if the powerplay time goes to someone else.
Like other teenagers, it is also important to remember the entry-level contract rules for Jiricek. He will not burn the first year of his deal until he plays in his tenth game, meaning this could be a short-term tryout to see if he can hack it in the NHL. That said, if he shows he is ready, there will be some interesting decisions to be made when Boqvist is healthy again.