2022 NHL Draft Showdown: Simon Nemec vs. David Jiricek

What would you do if you were faced with the prospect of choosing between Simon Nemec and David Jiricek in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft? Ranked third and fourth respectively (among European skaters) by NHL Central Scouting in their final draft rankings, they believe it’s Nemec that should be selected first. However, some rankers like Elite Prospects (2nd vs. 7th), Bob McKenzie (7th vs. 9th) and SMAHT Scouting (3rd vs. 9th) have Jiricek quite a bit ahead of him. They both will undoubtedly turn into NHL defencemen one day, but who will stand out as being the best pick?

2022 NHL Draft Showdown: Nemec vs. Jiricek

For both their sakes, let’s hope one of them doesn’t follow the same trajectory as Griffin Reinhart, who was highly rated by several scouting outlets and ended up going fourth overall to the New York Islanders in 2012 ahead of names like Morgan Reilly, Hampus Lindholm, Matt Dumba and Jacob Trouba. After a standout career with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL), he bounced around three organizations before ending up in Europe where he’s played in three different leagues (KHL, DEL and EIHL). At 28 years old, he has only appeared in 37 NHL games and recorded two assists.

Alright, enough doom and gloom, let’s get to the showdown between these two great defensive prospects.

The Case for Simon Nemec

From dominating the Tipos Extraliga with the most points from a draft-eligible defenceman in league history to playing in almost every international tournament imaginable, Nemec has definitely made a case to be the first blueliner off the board. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound right-hander has everything you want in a top-pairing, franchise defenceman. His confidence knows no bounds as he expertly navigates every zone on the ice with ease and precision thanks to his high-end hockey IQ, seemingly effortless skating stride and quick stick. His transition game also allows him to seamlessly switch from offence to defence, which makes for a very dangerous player to go up against. All in all, if a team is in need of a game-changing defenceman, they can’t go wrong with a selection like Nemec.

Simon Nemec Team Slovakia
Simon Nemec, Team Slovakia (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

“I see Nemec as a John Klingberg-type defenseman with the Dallas Stars,” said Craig Button, TSN director of scouting, NHL analyst and former NHL general manager. “Simon is smart with the puck, nifty, sharp, crafty, deceptive and extremely competitive. Don’t think you’re going to be able to get the better of Simon Nemec … you’re just not going to.”

While Klingberg was selected in the fifth round by the Stars in 2010, Nemec is too good right now to be selected beyond the top five in this year’s proceedings. Expertly playing with and against men in Europe and at the Olympics and World Championship, he’s shown the ability to step into the NHL right now and play regular minutes.

The Case for David Jiricek

Like Nemec, Jiricek has the potential to be a force at the NHL level one day. If he hadn’t been injured in the World Juniors back in December, he might have been able to make a stronger case to be selected ahead of him in this year’s draft. However, even though he didn’t play as much as his Slovak counterpart, he still has generated plenty of buzz leading up to the first round on July 7. At a much taller 6-foot-3, he towers over the competition and does a lot of things the modern-day NHLer needs to do to succeed.

Related: Kraken 2022 NHL Draft Target: David Jiříček

“The creativity with the puck and the shot are both really high-end. I don’t know if he defends well enough to be a top pairing defenceman, but he’s still the best defenceman in this class” – Eastern Conference executive, May 2022 (from ‘2022 EP Draft Guide – David Jiricek’, Elite Prospects)

As that particular executive states, Jiricek’s defence isn’t NHL-level…yet. However, that can be developed in time. Attributes like offensive awareness and creativity are things that cannot be taught, and he has them in spades. He may not be as well-rounded as Nemec, but he definitely has more upside in the point department.

David Jiricek Team Czechia
David Jiricek, Team Czechia (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Jiricek also spent the entire 2021-22 season playing with and against men, as he scored five goals and 11 points in 29 games suiting up for HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga, the highest division of Czech hockey. While he didn’t break any records like Nemec did, he still had a solid conclusion to his season as he recovered from knee surgery just in time for the 2022 World Championship in Finland. Despite concerns about his mobility, he impressed scouts during the tournament, especially Robert Kron, the director of amateur scouting for the Seattle Kraken.

“People associate big guys with physical play and he enjoys playing a physical game,” Kron said. “If there is anything underrated, it is his playmaking ability. He has the ability to make the play and get the puck. He’s played with men and has proven he can play on that level. He’s been someone who has learned from a young age and you can see it in his game. Nothing really rattles him” (from ‘Should the Kraken draft David Jiricek at No. 4? Simon Nemec? Cutter Gauthier?’, Ryan S. Clark –The Athletic, 6/21/22).

Related: 2022 NHL Draft: Top-10 Defensemen

Jiricek’s skating doesn’t leap off the page like Nemec’s does, but he still has exceptional mobility for a man of his size. All in all, whoever gets him, whether it is before or after Nemec, will have a future top-pairing blueliner on their hands with the potential to be a 40-50 point man.

Jiricek & Nemec: Side-By-Side Comparison

When you have two defencemen who are similar in skillset and potential, it’s difficult to choose between them. No wonder only a few spots separate them when it comes to draft rankings. Just look at this side-by-side comparison of their strengths and things to work on (courtesy of their THW draft profiles) and tell me the decision would be easy:

David JiricekSimon Nemec
StrengthsStrong two-way game
Skating and edgework
Gap control
Skating and mobility
Passing abilities
Strong in transition
Poise and hockey IQ
Defensive awareness
Under ConstructionDecision making
Risk taker
Consistency with puck control at times

As you can see from the above table, both Nemec and Jiricek possess attributes that will eventually make them high-end defenders in the NHL one day. The only key difference is the physicality of Jiricek and the fact that he occasionally has some issues with his decision-making. Really, you can’t go wrong with either of them. However, since this is a showdown, we have to choose one. So without the further ado, the winner is…

The Verdict: Simon Nemec

While Jiricek has size, physicality, and a cannon from the point on his side, Nemec would be my choice if I was a general manager walking up to the podium with both of these gems still on the board. The main reasons are, his more well-rounded game defensively and the poise and confidence he shows with the puck on his stick. When he makes it to the NHL one day, he will be able to step in and play big minutes on both the power play and penalty kill and be a stabilizing presence to anyone he is paired with.

Related: THW’s FREE 2022 NHL Draft Guide

Who would you choose if you were a GM faced with the decision between Nemec and Jiricek? Let us know in the comments!

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