Scouting: David Jiříček or Šimon Nemec?
Analyzing and comparing the game of David Jiříček and Šimon Nemec
Last week, we analyzed and compared the game of Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovský. While they are two of the most promising prospects in the 2022 NHL draft, there is another interesting debate that has emerged in the past year within this draft class: Nemec or Jiříček?
Nemec and Jiříček are both highly touted right-handed defensemen who could hear their name called by an NHL team in the top-10, next week, in Montreal.
In this article, I will break down the game of Šimon Nemec and David Jiříček using different metrics and video analysis to uncover the strengths and discuss development opportunities for both players.
The first metric that we will use is a classic: NHLe. This production equivalency metric, which was provided for purposes of this article by my friend Max Tixador, can be leveraged to normalize the offensive production of players in different leagues. Max’s NHLe model is inspired by the work of CJ Turtoro and Patrick Bacon with N-NHLe models.
But even if research has shown that NHLe is a useful metric to project the success of players in the NHL, it doesn’t necessarily capture the whole picture. When analyzing the options of a team with the first overall pick, going beyond point projections may be useful to compare the style of play and projectability of habits of the different options.
Therefore, we will use our SARAH models (adapted from women’s hockey to junior men’s hockey) to compare the success probability for players, across 30 habits and 7 skill sets.
Simply put, the SARAH models transform event micro-stats (e.g., exits, entries, shots…) into quantifiable habits (e.g., edgework, stride extension, shooting mechanics, vision…) by identifying relevant event-habit pairs and using a weighted combination of these event-habit pairs to make probabilistic predictions regarding habits. To learn more about our SARAH models, here is the paper we wrote outlining our methodology.
With that in mind, we can take a look at a player comparison tool summarizing the key metrics discussed above for Nemec and Jiříček:
As Max is the one who built the NHLe model, I asked for his interpretation of the equivalency stats for both players:
Both European defensemen played against older men in their respective leagues, this season. Looking at their equivalency counting stats, it is difficult to give a clear edge to one player.
When we look at production and NHLe, both players have had similar development trajectories in the last 2 seasons.
Then, in terms of analysis of the habits based on the SARAH models, we can break down the comparison of Nemec and Jiříček in the 7 skill sets of interest used as part of the initial project.
Jiříček covers some ground, but for me, his short stride extension stood out as a weakness in his skating technique. Indeed, he fails to have his back leg just under full extension (and under his body) in stride to allow for maximum recovery before the next stride. His balance when pivoting could also be improved which would yield more stable transitions to backwards skating.
Nemec’s skating technique, on the other hand, is very fluid in terms of stride recovery and edgework. He is able to rotate, change direction and do much more, very easily on the ice. However, he could work on his ability to transition from one skill to the other quicker (shouldering speed), which is something that could come with time.
2) Puck Reception
In terms of puck reception, the quality of Jiříček’s first touch allows him to control the direction of the puck along the boards. Combining that with his ability to keep his feet in motion provides him with opportunities to readily get off the boards. However, in open ice, his weight is sometimes centered when catching the puck while standing still. This makes him lose some precious fractions of a second following receptions.
For Nemec, most puck catches happen in a dynamic posture (within a weight shift). He also has the ability of letting pucks slide into his hip pocket on his forehand and backhand. These are two skills that set him apart from Jiříček. However, he sometimes struggles to get off the boards given suboptimal puck receptions along the boards.
3) Stick Handling
Jiříček plays the game quickly as a result of his solid stick handling skills. He underhandles the puck often and is able to combine handedness versatility with deception to carry the puck into valuable areas. From a technical standpoint, learning to leverage his hip pocket more often could help him expose the puck less.
Nemec is good at using his hip pocket to hide the puck on the side of his body. Sometimes he overhandles the puck which results in him not being as deceptive as Jiříček when carrying the puck.
Jiříček may be 6’3” but physicality wise, his game is not fully developed. He currently has the habit of absorbing contact to make plays. But, down the road, he could learn to initiate contact more. This will also help him protect the puck more efficiently with his body.
In terms of physicality, stacked with good puck placement, Nemec uses his body to create a separation between his opponents and the puck. This makes it difficult for opponents to access it.
5) Defensive Play
When defending against the rush, his good gap control allows him to kill plays early by going “stick-on-puck” following NZ angling sequences. He also has the reflex of boxing out players in front of the net and he will continue to improve this aspect of his game as he becomes stronger physically.
Nemec’s gap control is not bad, but he could look to sag a bit less when trying to defend the rush. In the DZ, however, Nemec is very efficient with his stick and is able to neutralize threats through unassisted stops. He understands the game well without the puck.
Nemec’s passing game revolves around smart and effective plays in all 3 zones to improve the condition of the puck. He will find ways to optimally send the puck up the ice without necessarily being flashy.
On the other hand, given his good vision, Jiříček is quick to scan, process and get an understanding of offensive situations. These skills provide him with myriad opportunities to creatively identify and leverage valuable seams on the ice.
Nemec is a high-volume shooter, whereas Jiříček shoots to score.
In terms of technique, Nemec decently applies downward force through his shot which helps him with power. But, given his shot selection (usually aiming low to get shots through to the net), he leverages his shot more as a puck placement tool to open opportunities for forwards on the next play.
Jiříček’s OZ activation patterns allow him to get into quality shooting positions. He has a versatile shot, being able to use both his wrist and slap shots to do some damage in the OZ. Given his frame and his good weight transfer through his shooting motion, Jiříček also has an edge on Nemec in terms of shooting velocity.
All that being said, Nemec and Jiříček could both become very impactful players in the NHL and for me it would come down to organizational needs to make a decision between the two.
If a team is looking for a potential #1 defenseman, who will creatively drive play and generate chances, Jiříček should be their selection. If a team is looking for a reliable defenseman, who will be able to improve the condition of the puck in smart ways and will help solidify the team’s d-core for the next 10 to 15 years, Nemec should be the pick.
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