Jan Jeník is a tiger cub — he is playing with HC Bílí Tygři Liberec in the Czech Extraliga after all — born on the last eligible day for this draft. Still, Jeník is the top prospect in the Liberec organization, and there should be quite a few NHL teams that would take a chance on the lanky Czech centreman.
Birthplace: Nymburk, Czech Republic
Weight: 165 lbs.
Youth team: NED Hockey Nymburk, Czech Republic
Pro team: HC Bílí Tygři Liberec, Extraliga
What really stands out is his work ethic and competitiveness. Jeník isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice. Along the boards, behind or in front of the net, Jeník will be there, even if his size isn’t the biggest just yet. Standing 6’1’’, but weighing in at a just 165 pounds, there is quite a bit of room for physical improvement, but as mentioned, Jeník is almost a year younger than some players in the draft, and the size shouldn’t be a major worry for a team interested in what he has to offer.
Jeník played 30 games for Liberec’s farm team, Benatky nad Jizerou, and had some time with the senior hockey during the season. He finished at around 16 minutes per game on the development team. His contribution was almost two shots per game, many of them from the home-plate area, playing all situations on the ice. At the end of the season, he was transferred to Bílí Tygři Liberec’s junior team and was a big reason why they finished the season with silver medals around their necks.
His stick-handling around the net is strong, giving him the chance to rely on his skill even in areas where space is limited. He works well with time and space on the ice, and can solve one-on-one situations in many ways.
Jeník has the same upside as Martin Kaut; a secure two-way player who works really hard and has a good amount of skill. He does, however, need to work on his skating and edge work to get to that high level that is expected from a Czech player. This might come with his growth and muscle development, and could be mended during the off-season with the right help from the coaching team.
One possible negative aspect of his game is that despite going into the dirty areas, he does not protect himself very well when in them. It does seem that he is a bit naïve when he plays against men, being absolutely focused on the puck and not his own protection. Much like the tiger on the prowl, he shows little regard for his own well-being. Obviously, being a young player and playing that way, you will have to pay for it somehow, especially when you play against men.
On the other hand, he has never been forced out of a game due to injury or a reckless hit. He always manages to bounce back. This may be because of the warrior code that Jeník adheres to, but this is also part of a bygone era in many respects, and it is something that Jeník will need to change to have longevity in his playing career.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #94
NHL Central Scouting: #16 (European skaters)
Jeník should be a very good draft choice as he is one of the top projects in the Liberec organization. After having been one of the best players on the Czech Republic’s U18 team, he will no doubt have NHL eyes on him as well. His age will make him a tantalizing prospect for any NHL club.
He was impressive in the Hlinka Memorial Tournament last year with six goals and an assist in five games. He had six assists in seven games in the recent Under-18 World Championship.
Being of the new generation, Jeník is a forward who is skilled, cheeky, and not afraid. He is relentlessly trying to get to the net and cause damage to the opponent. He was a beast in the Czech U20 playoffs.
No matter which team picks him in the draft, Jeník will have a choice to make. He could be a junior players who plays regularly for Liberec’s “A” team in Extraliga under one of Europe’s most exciting coaches, Filip Pesan; have an even more important role in the development team, Benatky nad Jizerou, than the previous season, or; opt to try the CHL in North America.
I am sure quite a few NHL scouts have liked what they’ve seen, and he could be a great addition with one of Montreal’s picks late in the second round or early in the third.