Jiricek Cleveland

Playing in Cleveland this spring while chasing a Calder Cup championship has been fun for Blue Jackets defensive prospects Stanislav Svozil and David Jiricek, but not everything has been perfect.

Take their Thursday night jaunt to a western Cleveland suburb to try to find some home cooking. Northeast Ohio is known for its European food, but the Czech teammates were out of luck on their journey Thursday night.

“We found a Czech restaurant 45 minutes from here, and it wasn’t open!” Svozil said with a tinge of disbelief after Friday’s morning skate. “It’s opening today. We are going to try to go there tomorrow.”

That little bit of bad luck aside, things are going pretty well for the two blueliners, who can also expect to move south down I-71 at some point together. Longtime friends with the Czech junior teams, the two have formed a dependable defensive pair as the division champion Monsters are working their way through the AHL playoffs, playing big minutes together as Cleveland took its first-round playoff series by a 3-1 margin over Belleville.

“It’s fun to play with him,” said Jiricek, a first-round pick in the 2022 draft. “We have played pretty good hockey right now, so just keep going. We have played a bunch of times on the national team, against each other too, so that’s fun that we can play here too.”

Jiricek and Svozil were paired together near the end of the season and stayed with one another through the four-game series win over the B-Sens. Jiricek tied for the Monsters’ lead in points in the series with a 1-2-3 line and plus-1 rating, while Svozil had an assist and was plus-2.

The Monsters have had to deal with some adversity on the defensive corps so far this playoffs, battling through a handful of injuries, but head coach Trent Vogelhuber has found a dependable duo in the pair of Czechs.

“I like those two together,” Vogelhuber said. “They have a good personal relationship, which I think goes a long way on the ice. In high-pressure moments, they know how to talk to each other properly because they know each other really well and keep each other at easy and in a good place, which for young defensemen I think is just huge. I’ve really liked that pair together.”

As Vogelhuber said, the chemistry is strong because the two – along with third-string goalie Pavel Cajan – have known each other for so long. They hail from different regions of Czechia – Jiricek from the western city of Klatovy, Svozil from eastern Czechia in Prerov – and Svozil is a year older, but they have played together on junior national teams starting in 2019-20, including two stints together on the country’s World Juniors team.

Most impressively, the two were key parts of the 2023 Czechia World Juniors squad that won the country’s first medal at the event since 2005 and took Connor Bedard-led Canada to overtime in the gold medal game that year.

“We know if someone jumps up to the offense, the other stays on defense,” said Svozil, a third-round pick in 2021. “We know what to expect with each other. We used to play a couple times together with the national team. We know each other well and we know what to do on the ice.”

There’s also a comfort in speaking to each other in their native language along with fellow Czech defenseman Jakub Zboril, even if the rest of the bench might not know what’s going on.

“It’s nice to have a Czech D partner so you can speak in your language,” Svozil said before laughing. “Nobody understands you on the bench, but we don’t really care.”

Svozil’s first pro season after being one of the top scoring defensemen in Canadian Junior Hockey a season ago has been full of ups and downs, including some early-season injury troubles, but he agrees he’s playing his best hockey of late, especially defensively. On the season, he posted five goals and 18 assists for 23 points in 57 games with the Monsters.

Jiricek, meanwhile, began the year with Columbus and played 43 games with the Blue Jackets but spent most of the second half with Cleveland. He said he’s enjoyed his time with the Monsters because of the close-knit nature of the squad, and in 29 games, he posted a 7-12-19 line in Cleveland.

With Cleveland moving on in the AHL playoffs, there’s more hockey to be played, and hopefully a Czech meal or two along the way.

“Playoffs is the best part of the season,” Svozil said. “I think we’re doing a really good job so far. We need to keep going. We have a great group here; everyone wants to go as far as we can, and we’re trying our best.”

Interested in learning more about 2024-25 Ticket Plans? Please fill out the form below and a Blue Jackets representative will reach out with more information!