Who the heck is Jiri Sekac? That's what I asked myself when the announcement was made that he'd signed an Entry-Level Contract with the Canadiens. I raced to the Google machine to find out more about him, and the best information I could find was this article from a fan site for the Islanders.
That he was so hotly pursued by so many teams is not surprising. A player like him available as a free agent is almost like getting an extra second-round pick. Some would argue that his development is already mostly done, he having just turned 22 years old, so a lot of the uncertainty that comes with drafting an 18-year old is taken out of the equation. So maybe it's more like drafting a 'safe' first-rounder, one who may not have a very high ceiling, but who has the tools, the size, and the skating that projects very easily to the NHL. So yeah, found money.
The Canadiens have had success before with unsigned European free agents with Raphaël Diaz, who we got for free, got some use out of, and then flipped before he became a UFA to Vancouver in exchange for Dale Weise, who figures to be a usable piece for the Canadiens for a couple seasons yet. If we get that kind value from Jiri Sekac it will be another net positive.
One of the main knocks on Mr. Sekac is that he's small and weak physically, but that seems based on his first appearance in North America. He's still listed on hockeydb as being 6 foot and 174 lbs, whereas reports now put him at 6'2" and 190 lbs. Certainly he looks bigger than his official stats suggest, when seen on video highlights, he has a lanky swooping quality that reminds one of Rick Nash, strictly speaking of style and not making a direct talent comparison obviously.
Another reported weakness in his game is his "unorthodox" skating stride. While we're not able to deny this finding, we may think to players like Michael Ryder who while not being burners can make up for it with instincts and good puck talent. A tradeoff of speed in exchange for his useful size and nose for the net is one we can make.
Whether he lands in Hamilton or with Le Grand Club in October is up to question. If Marc Bergevin stands pat until training camp, there's certainly a roster spot available on right wing, but that's a big if. Last off-season the Montréal GM went bargain-bin diving later on in the summer and tacked George Parros and Douglas Murray onto the roster to address a need for physical players. We can surmise that he sees the holes in the roster at least as well as we do, and that he'll go shopping for a Dustin Penner or Devin Setoguchi or some other such budget band-aid that is withering on the vine closer to September.
In short, Jiri Sekac is a can't-lose proposition, an asset added at no cost other than the dollars attached to his contract. We need to be cautious in our evaluation and expectations, but it's another move in the right direction. Even if he only provides organizational depth his first year, if he adds some experience and scoring punch that is sorely missing on the Bulldogs, it's a worthwhile use of one of the precious 50 contract slots available to the team.
EDIT: TSN has a five minute video of Jiri Sekac being interviewed in a scrum at the development camp in Brossard.