23 Options for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2024 NHL Draft - Adam Jiricek

The Czech Defenseman is still seen as a top draft prospect despite an injury upending his season
Adam Jiricek vs Canada - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Adam Jiricek vs Canada - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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Adam Jiricek is a largely defensive defenseman with two-way potential who plays a very pro-style level of hockey with a lot of maturity and composure. Jiricek clearly has a strong hockey IQ and reads the game at a higher pace than most at his stage in his career.

Jiricek has risen through the ranks of Czech pro hockey in large part to his ability to outplay everyone else in his age level. Even with a lack of body strength, Jiricek has a naturally skilled physical game. He's a strong shutdown defender with good defensive instincts.

Offensively, you're hoping for a bit more. He seemed to have a bit of an issue moving the puck in the few Czech matches I saw before his injury. He didn't seem prepared for the pace of play of pro competition, and he looked slow and unsure in comparison. He holds on to the puck for too long and doesn't seem certain about executing passes. The shooting looked alright, but he didn't manage to score, which is a disappointment.

With all that, my biggest concern is with the skating. It doesn't seem to have translated to pro hockey, and as I said, he looks slower than most of the other players on the ice. I don't think Jiricek is a slow player, but he didn't look like he had much control or the ability to impact the game. Defensively, he was ready to play, everywhere else, I don't think so.

His absence makes it hard to be sure as to where his progress is as a prospect, his last few games in December, at the World Juniors, the last indicator of where Jiricek was at in his development curve. As a positive, his brief international stint was some of his best hockey. Against his own group, Jiricek reminded people why he's such a promising player. If he can add some size to his defensive game, he could make it into a very appealing pro tool.

For the rest of his game, there just isn't much to go on, and what he showed wasn't what scouts were likely hoping to see. The pieces are still there, but had he stayed healthy, his overall game could've either improved greatly, pushing him higher into the rankings, perhaps into the top-ten, but if he continued struggling to compete, he could've fell harder than he somewhat has. You have to give him a lot of credit for what he's done in the past, while acknowledging in the brief period of time this season it didn't seem the best of him came through.

I see a bottom-four defenseman with his best case scenario being a shutdown second-line defenseman. Based on the games I saw in Czechia, I see a bottom-pair defender. The international matches and U20 games last season do show second pairing potential. I'll meet in the middle and say 4-5th defender is reasonable. Again, this is all going off of games before 2024.