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Jiricek frustrated with AHL demotion: 'I'm an NHL player right now'

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Defenseman David Jiricek voiced his frustration with how the Columbus Blue Jackets have handled him this season.

"I played good hockey in the NHL," Jiricek told The Athletic's Aaron Portzline on Friday. "I'm an NHL player right now. That's my opinion: that I should be in the NHL right now."

Jiricek was drafted sixth overall by the Blue Jackets in 2022. He's played 36 games with Columbus this season, recording one goal and nine points. He was sent down to the Cleveland Monsters on Jan. 18 in the middle of a Blue Jackets road trip.

The 20-year-old Czech native looks to two blue-liners from the top 10 of the 2022 class as examples of the opportunity he would like to get in Columbus.

"I see guys from the same draft, like Simon Nemec and (Kevin) Korchinski ... they get a chance on the power play," Jiricek said. "They play a ton of minutes in the NHL. Those are different teams, so different situations, but I can compare with them. I just want a chance to play like that."

Since a December recall, Nemec, the 2022 second overall pick, has 13 points in 26 games while playing 20:46 per game. Korchinski, who was taken one pick after Jiricek by the Chicago Blackhawks, has tallied nine points in 44 games. He's averaged 19:53 per contest.

Jiricek was playing 14:47 a game with the Blue Jackets. He's played just 25 seconds on the man advantage in the NHL this season, compared to Korchinski's 102:10 and Nemec's 34:58 total ice time on the power play.

The Blue Jackets scratched Jiricek in three straight games after a 5-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 9 prior to his demotion to the AHL.

"They told me the last game was not good enough for me," Jiricek explained. "I told them I don't think so, but that's your opinion. I was out of the lineup after that."

Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent said he believes the demotion is best for Jiricek's growth as a player.

"We're trying to build a 200-foot defenseman, an elite defenseman who will play heavy minutes against top opponents," Vincent said. "In order to do that, he needs reps. For him to develop those skills, the best way to do it right now - having been in the NHL for 36 games - (the AHL) is the best route for him."

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