Building a jigsaw puzzle

Katie Brickman
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Warriors draft Smejkal in import draft

Alan Millar feels like he got what he was looking for on Wednesday.

Jiri Smejkal

The Moose Jaw Warriors drafted Jiri Smejkal with the 12th overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

“He was one or three of the guys we targeted and we are very pleased to add him to our roster,” said Millar, general manager of the Warriors. “We felt, at the end of the day, that player was a real good fit for our hockey club this year and moving forward.”

Smejkal is a 1996-born 6’3, 183 pound left-winger from the Czech Republic. He spent last season with HC Ceske Budejovice. He played seven games with the under-18 team, scoring five goals and 10 points.

He also played 28 games with the under-20 team, totalling seven goals and 19 points.

“We went into the draft and we were hoping for a ‘96 born player. We felt that someone a year older with a little bit more experience (and) hopefully could have more of an immediate impact in our lineup,” said Millar. “We also wanted a player that would fit into our age group and be with us for a minimum of two years.”

Smejkal represented his country at the 2014 World Under-18 Championships in Finland. He had four goals in six games, including one against Canada in the semifinal, helping to capture the silver medal.

“Jiri competes hard and has an offensive touch and skill,” said Millar.

Millar wanted to add a player that could quickly step into a top six forward role on the Warriors this season, as well as adding some size up front to compliment some of their smaller forwards.

“We understand that we have been on the small side up front, but that won’t change overnight. I think we have certainly addressed that and complimented that with some bigger players coming into our lineup — not just this season, but in our drafts and younger players we have acquired,” said Millar.

As the Warriors continue their rebuild, they looked long and hard at what areas they wanted to improve in prior to this draft.

“We felt moving forward in this rebuild, I know a lot of people wanted us to focus on size, but skill and hockey IQ were the two areas that were front and centre in what we had to address first and foremost,” he stated. “We have that balance of skating, speed, skill, hockey IQ, size and grit that we need to have to be a successful team at our level.”

Smejkal is “100 per cent committed” and will be here for the start of training camp on Aug. 20.

“He is a late birth guy that is not eligible until the 2015 draft, so he wants to get drafted and wants to play in the NHL. He wants to come over to North America and get acclimatized to the game and learn how to play the game over here,” said Millar. “He wants to be front and centre for NHL scouts. I think it is a huge opportunity for him. That is part of his plan and his goal to play in the CHL next year.”

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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