It is no secret the Columbus Blue Jackets have been bombarded with injuries. Both defensemen Zach Werenski and Jake Bean’s seasons are over. The Columbus blueline has been a patchwork, and the team’s top prospect, D- David Jiricek, is in Cleveland playing for the Monsters. But should he be? At 19 years old, Jiricek looks like a player who could or should be on the Blue Jackets’ roster nightly.
Flashback to training camp, where David Jiricek made a big impression on the Blue Jackets’ front office and coaching staff. In ten games with the Monsters (he was called up to Columbus for two games in Finland but never dressed), Jiricek has amassed three goals and six assists for nine points while playing on the Monsters’ top pair. He was one of the final cuts.
The Blue Jackets #6 overall draft pick has more than held his own in the defensive end. Strong skating, combined with excellent quickness, and good lateral movement, allow him to maintain good gap control. Jiricek plays with a discipline well beyond his 19 years. Yet to be caught out of position, Jiricek uses his big frame to his advantage and has laid some booming checks.
An aspect of his game that was said to be lacking has been everything, but Jiricek is a near-flawless passer for the Monsters. His pre-draft profile showed a player with the tools to be a top defenseman in the NHL. Jiricek has undoubtedly shown more than flashes of this in Cleveland. But, his time in Columbus is not yet seemingly.
For many young defensive players, consistency is a struggle to nail down. Once again, Jiricek has been very consistent. So what to make of all of this? Is Cleveland the right place for David Jiricek or Columbus? Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen decided to give an 18-year-old (at the time) Jiricek developmental time in Cleveland. Yet, Jiricek’s play suggests that he can handle the NHL.
Credit must be given to Kekalainen for sticking with his plan for the young Jiricek despite having four starting defensemen out with injuries, two of whose seasons are done. There is little doubt that Jiricek will hit his projection of being a pre-draft top defenseman, most likely as soon as next season.
The argument could go either way. The Blue Jackets clearly are not winning this season, and perhaps it is best to give Jiricek an entire season in the AHL.