Once Andrej Sekera went down with an injury during off-season training, the Edmonton Oilers knew they had to do something. Instead of make a big panic trade, the Oilers elected to sign defender Jakub Jerabek to a one-year, $1,000,000 contract. Jerabek, with just one year of NHL experience but plenty of KHL work under his belt, comes to Edmonton with little intel on him.
That’s not a bad thing. Expectations for this player are low, and there aren’t any biases about his game coming in. Jerabek has the chance to come to Edmonton, be himself, play his game and write his own story. That’s a pretty rare chance, and one that could end up earning him an NHL roster spot. It might not work out (Hello, Anton Belov) or it might end up being a diamond in the rough signing. Regardless, the Oilers are taking a low-risk chance on a defender with some talent.
So…..Just Who Is Jakub Jerabek?:
A 27 year old defender from the Czech Republic, Jerabek split last season between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, where he won the Stanley Cup last June. In 25 games with the Habs, Jerabek posted 1-3-4 before adding four more points (1-3-4) in 11 games for the Caps. He played in just two postseason tilts, both in the opening round, and registered a single assist against Columbus.
Jerabek was a depth player, averaging only 16:19 TOI per game over the course of his 36 NHL games. He’s a left-shot, third-pairing defender that can move the puck a bit and provide solid depth down the lineup in Edmonton. He posted a 49.5 Corsi for percentage over those 36 games, indicating he was an even possession player.
The Capitals, a good possession team, certainly helped that number, right? Wrong, Jerabek was actually a better possession player in Montreal (50.2 CF%) than in Washington (46.6 CF%). Interesting to note.
Relative to his teammates, Jerabek was a positive player in Montreal, posting a 2.4 CF% Rel compared to his -1.4 mark in Washington. Small sample size alert in both cases, but Jerabek was a positive player in Montreal and struggled a bit after his mid-season trade.
Jerabek started 53.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone, getting a major push after heading to Washington (59.3%). That’s interesting becasue his possession numbers actually went down with a higher percentage of offensive zone starts. An odd quirk likely explained by, once again, small sample size.
Here’s a look at Jerabek’s scouting report via The Hockey News.
Assets: Is mobile and an excellent puck mover from behind the blueline. Can also post excellent offensive numbers at lower levels. Can play a physical brand of hockey, as well.
Flaws: Must prove capable of making an impact in North America, specifically at the highest level. Lacks ideal size for an NHL defender, so he may struggle to play a physical game.
Career Potential: Solid, puck-moving defenseman with a little upside.
What Can We Expect?:
I think expecting Jerabek to make the NHL roster is a pretty fair line in the sand. He was signed to at least replace some of the production lost when Sekera went down again, and one has to imagine the Oilers envision him sliding into the third-pairing.
Once on the roster, I think we can expect steady depth play from Jerabek. He’s not at all flashy, but he can move the puck well and transition from the defensive end up to the offensive zone. He’s likely to play a third-pairing role at five-on-five and could earn some powerplay time should Edmonton elect to use multiple defenders on their units.
Overall, I think Jerabek is likely a replacement for Yohann Auvitu. Like Auvitu, Jerabek has good offensive instincts and can sit in the press box for stretches without his development being hurt. He’s a more traditional defender, however, and as a result probably will earn the trust of the coaches. That’s one thing Auvitu seemingly never could do a season ago.
It’ll be interesting to watch Jerabek in the coming weeks to see how he adjusts to his new team and what kind of skill set he truly brings to the table.