He’s 17 and they already want him in the NHL. Hockey talent follows in his brother’s footsteps

It’s been almost two decades since brothers František and Tomáš Kaberle played side by side at top hockey events. In a few years, two other great defenders from the same family could wear the jersey of the national team.

Also this year, just like last year, we have to bring a profile of a hockey defenseman into the Sports Talent of the Year series. Why do we have to? He is seventeen years old, he plays hockey in Pilsen and at the end of the coming season, he will generate a lot of interest for the NHL Draft. His name is Adam Jiříček. And he’s only two years younger than David’s brother, who was named Sports Talent of the Year by Seznam Zprávy last time out, and who actually played for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL. .

Sports Talents of 2023

Photo: Jakub Čaja, Seznam Zpravy, AI visualization

Sports talent of 2023.

Seznam Zprávy is once again on the hunt for the Czech Republic’s greatest sporting hopefuls. Watch the series Sports Talent of the Year. With the experts, we present eight extremely gifted athletes who excel in tennis, football, ice hockey, alpine skiing, rugby, volleyball, athletics and badminton. And last but not least, gifted computer game players.

It was January 8, 2023, when the Pilsen hockey team traveled to Třinec for a regular Tipsport extraliga hockey game. From the point of view of the result, it did not go well, the West Bohemians lost 1:6 in front of the TV cameras on the ice of Czech hegemony, but basically nothing was said about it positively only after the game.

Anyone who has watched a dozen matches could not fail to notice the defender in the blue jersey. And certainly not because of the basket that covered his young face of only sixteen years old. Adam Jiříček, still a teenager, made his debut in the top-level competition against the best team of the last five years. Unexpected, but successful. Jiříček spent an incredible twenty-eight minutes on the ice, he was the busiest player in the game. He played weak and powerful, the coaches almost didn’t let him off the ice. And although Plzeň was not enough for Třinc, it certainly cannot be said that it was the fault of the young player. On the contrary: as one of the few Pilsen Indians, he found himself at zero in +/- scoring. In other words: he wasn’t on the ice for any of his team’s conceded goals. On the contrary, he could score a goal himself.

“He showed insight, calm, self-confidence, a solid shot and great handling of the puck”, wrote the next day the player unknown to supporters in the pages of the Sport newspaper. Invisible.

“Adam (Jiříček) is a class of 2006, which means he will go to the NHL draft at the end of this season. You can definitely say about him that he is one of those talents that we don’t have. many produced in recent years,” said Jan Vopat, chief European scout for the St. Louis Blues Hockey Club.

“He’s a great talent,” admits Jaroslav Nedvěd, one of the under-18 national team coaches, under whose colors Jiříček also stood out a few days ago at the closely guarded memorial in Hlink. In the prestigious junior category event, the Czechs brilliantly qualified for the final in Břeclav, where they challenged Canada until the dying seconds of the first overtime.

“But the great thing about Adam is that his talent is combined with hard work. In every training you can see a huge commitment, he always wants to improve. I was impressed that “He never leaves a loose puck on the ice in practice, he always tries certain things. I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him,” Nedvěd added.

In the spring, Adam Jiříček finally managed to play twelve games for Pilsen in the top Czech competition, scoring two assists. The first two days after his premiere, in the second game of his career in front of his own home crowd. But he also shone in the jersey of the national under-18 team: he caught the eye of scouts at the world under-18 championship, but also at the Hlink summer memorial in Břeclav. The few weeks between the two flagship events in this category have shown how quickly players evolve.

“He’s a very creative defender, quite offensive. But hockey is played for results, and sometimes you have to moderate your creativity and your ego to the detriment of the collective and the result of the team. Last season, he dominated in his category he outperformed others on the ice, but he played his hockey. Now in Břeclav he also played as a team, blocking shots”, coach Nedvěd praises the player’s approach, about which dozens of NHL team representatives took notes directly on the Břeclav stands.

“In Czech hockey, he is a brilliant exception who has a chance of being drafted very high. Of course, a year before the draft, you cannot predict how good he will be. But he has what he will takes to be considered a first round. At the moment, however, we are at the beginning of the summer, we have seen the first tournament, not all the players are ready, it cannot be overstated”, says Vopat moderately .

The eldest David Jiříček also made his debut in Pilsen at the age of sixteen. In Western Bohemia, he spent three seasons in the highest Czech competition, even before the NHL draft, he even played for the adult national team in the World Championship and won a bronze medal. In the end, he went through the draft in sixth place, immediately signed a contract with Columbus, who counts on him as a mainstay in the defensive ranks for years to come. He also shone at the World Junior Championships, with an average of almost a point per game, a point is signed with a silver medal.

Now young Adam, representative of a Pilsen generation of unprecedented strength that regularly produces great hockey talent, would like to follow him. After all, people are already talking about even younger Adam Benák.

“Adam Jiříček is a very complex player. He has good skating, good reading of the game and a good kick, which I think he doesn’t use yet. But he’s a toy, she always rolls with it. the puck, inventing things, always wanting a better position. Sometimes it might not hurt to simplify things, to speed up the game with a pass, but it will get better in adult hockey,” concludes coach Jaroslav Nedvěd.

John Robinson

"Extreme gamer. Food geek. Internet buff. Alcohol expert. Passionate music specialist. Beeraholic. Incurable coffee fan."

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