Perhaps the biggest wild card for the Habs this year is Jakub Jerabek. Signed by the Montreal Canadiens to a one year deal, the 25-year-old had his best professional season last year in the KHL. He tallied 34 points in 59 games including five goals and 29 assists. While Jerabek is likely to enjoy few multi-point games in the NHL, he seems to have a good eye and a deceptively quick release.
Habs to Watch in 2017-18: Jakub Jerabek
Jerabek was a key European signing by the Habs this summer, according to LWOH’s Dalton Finkbeiner. Jerabek spent eight seasons with Plzen HC of the Czech Extraliga before moving to play for Chekov Vityaz of the KHL for the 2016-2017 season. The first question is whether he can make the team. Right now the most likely defensemen to make the team are Shea Weber, Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, and Karl Alzner. Mark Streit, David Schlemko, and Brandon Davidson are also likely to make the team. While Éric Gélinas was invited to a professional try out (PTO), he and Joe Morrow are more likely to play in Laval.
This Year’s Jiri Sekac?
LWOH’s own Nick Lariviere predicts Jerabek, like Jiri Sekac, is unlikely to live up to expectations. He rightly points out that the KHL to the NHL is too difficult a transition and that he has little experience. Jerabek stands 5’11” and weighs 190 pounds, this puts him on the smaller side of the Canadiens line up. While both Jerabek and Sekac are from the Czech Republic, there are three things that complicate simplistic comparisons.
The first is positional. Montreal is a team searching for an identity on defense. They need at least some speed and offensive upside, even as they embrace what has been called “defense through solid structures and systems.” Jerabek will need to adhere to Julien’s structural system while ensuring puck movement is part of his transition game. His immediate competition for a spot on the third defensive pairing is Davidson and Streit.
The second is around expectations. The high hopes for Jiri Sekac really can’t really be justified in retrospect when you look at his previous performance in the KHL. In his best year, he scored 28 points in 47 games – on the wing. By contrast, Jerabek scored 34 points in 59 games on defense and has been favorably compared to Nikita Zaitsev. Zaitsev is a former KHL defencemen who made the transition to the NHL and plays an important role with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unlike Sekac, there are credible reasons to think Jerabek can make the Habs, and make an impact.
The third reason is related to Andrei Markov‘s long shadow. Markov quarterbacked the powerplay and set up Shea Weber’s big shot from the point. He led the Habs with 11 powerplay assists. Jerabek could assist Montreal on the man advantage. His vision, exceptional passing, and offensive instincts would be essential as the Habs remake their powerplay. Fans should watch to see if Jerabek begins to challenge Streit for powerplay minutes during the 2016-17 season.
First Things First
Jakub Jerabek is certainly no shoo-in to make the team. The competition in training camp this year is likely to be fierce. He is not known as a physical player. In addition, it is not clear how he might find success as part of Claude Julien‘s defensive system. However, Jerabek does have some interesting offensive upside for a team seemingly committed to a more traditional defensive style. He tends to play on the left side. On a depth chart developed by Justice Blades, Jerabek is listed as the fifth defencemen on the left side. However, the reality is he could slot in anywhere, including in the top pair with Weber.