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The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on Edmonton forward Adam Jecho.'s full draft coverage can be found here.

Adam Jecho understands how stepping out of his comfort zone has put him on the quickest path to reaching the NHL.

That's why the forward left his native Czech Republic at 14 to move to Finland, and then after three seasons uprooted himself again to join Edmonton of the Western Hockey League this season.

"I wanted to see a little bit more development in my game," Jecho said. "I think that in Finland I got definitely better but I wanted to see more improvement. I think that the things that I have to work on are the physicality and the start and stop game ... so I think the Canadian Hockey League is perfect for that. The ice is smaller, the game is a lot quicker, more physical.

"I would say it was a perfect fit for me to kind of develop my game. I think that I made the right choice so far, so I'm happy about that."

The results confirm his decision; the 18-year-old had 47 points (23 goals, 24 assists) in 54 WHL games and is No. 22 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2024 Draft.

"He's a big (6-foot-5, 201 pounds), rangy kind of centerman, and obviously in the NHL size does matter," said John Williams of Central Scouting. "He's a big guy that gets around the ice well and has good skills and can just use his reach and range really well.

"I would say he's more of a table-setter kind of a guy. He makes plays, he likes to find some space. It's such an adjustment for these kids that are coming from Europe to play in a league like the Western Hockey League just because of the difference in the size of the rink for one, but just the way the game is played a little bit different, with the pace and the physicality.

"He's adjusting to that and finding where he fits and how to play in that type of environment. So I think that bodes well for his future as an NHL player. When you're that big, eventually you figure out that you do have an advantage and you can push some people around and lean on guys and create space for yourself. So I think he's learning that right now."

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It has been an enjoyable education as Jecho has learned the smaller ice and uptick in physical play is something for which he's well-suited.

"I think it's definitely a different style of hockey than in Europe," he said. "In Europe the ice is way bigger so the style of the hockey is different, everybody's skating with the puck on their sticks for a longer time and it's more about those down-low plays and rotations. 

"Here in Canada it's more about forechecking and getting turnovers and stuff like that. The physicality, it's a big thing there in the whole Canadian Hockey League and I think it's great for the young guys to get used to it. This is pretty much how the professional leagues are, so I think it prepares the young hockey players the best."

Jecho's preparation shifted into a new gear in 2020-21 when he joined Tappara in Finland and progressed through the under-16, under-18 and under-20 levels before Edmonton selected him with the No. 3 pick of the 2023 CHL Import Draft.

He said meeting Edmonton coach Luke Pierce and general manager Kirt Hill made the move to the WHL an easy one for him.

"Once I got the opportunity from Edmonton, once I saw the rink and everything around the hockey, it was probably my No. 1 option since the day that I got the offer," Jecho said. "Once I met with the GM and head coach Luke Pierce on the Zoom call, it was pretty clear to me that they're great people. It was a pretty easy choice for me after that. It's a great city and I'm really fortunate to be playing there."

Jecho's development in Edmonton has been about balancing his goal of being more physical while not losing the things that make him special, like his skating and playmaking ability.

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"I don't think he's going to be a third- and fourth-line physical, forechecking type of guy," Pierce said. "He's a finesse player with an extremely high IQ that can make plays and can score. But he wants to get more comfortable playing in harder areas and being more aggressive in those tight spaces. For him to run around and try and finish checks at a regular basis, it's just not feasible and takes away from probably what his best assets are."

To that end, Jecho likes to use two Buffalo Sabres forwards as on-ice role models: Alex Tuch (6-4, 215) and Tage Thompson (6-6, 220).

"We talked the other day about a guy like Alex Tuch as far as the way he engages physically and gets involved without being a full-on energy driver," Pierce said. "And then you look at a Tage Thompson with that size and skill without having to be overly physical. There's little elements of all of those oversized players that we want to try and pull from and help Adam with."

Jecho's footwork will help in that regard, some of which comes from his tennis background, which included being part of the Czech Republic national under-13 team. He had to give up his pro tennis hopes at age 12 to fully focus on hockey, but still plays during the offseason.

"It's a great sport, the starts and stops, the reaction, all that kind of stuff," he said. "It's great for the wrist power too. I think there's not too many better sports than tennis for hockey players."

Scouts see Jecho's growth potential along the lines of Los Angeles Kings forward Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft who became a first-time 20-goal scorer this season, his fourth in the NHL.

"The skill level that he has, the sense that he has, all those kinds of things are good," Williams said. "And then as he matures physically, the skating is going to improve, the confidence will improve as well when you realize that you can do things that other guys can't do. I just think it's more a function of time. He's not a guy that I would say is kind of ahead of the curve in terms of being able to step in and play right away. I think there's maybe a little bit more patience required in a player like this.

"When you look at a guy like Quinton Byfield, for instance, who took some time to get to where he's at now, but right now, he's a pretty darn good player."

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