Photo Credit: Nick Pettigrew / Moose Jaw Warriors
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Jagger Firkus is a 2022 NHL Draft prospect and he plays for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL. Firkus grew up in Irma, Alberta. Irma is the hometown of Seattle Kraken defenseman Carson Soucy and former Devils and Oilers defenseman Gordon Mark. Irma is 2 hours southeast of Edmonton and 4 hours northeast of Calgary.
Firkus played U15 AAA hockey for the Lloydminster Heat (one season) and the Lloydminster Bobcats (one season). Following his U15 AAA play, he played two seasons of U18 AAA hockey for the Lloydminster Bobcats.
Firkus was selected in the 4th round of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft at 82nd overall and made his WHL debut in 2019-2020.
D.O.B – April 29, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –154 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Firkus’ Style Of Play
Jagger Firkus has excellent presence in the slot. He has proven throughout his draft year season in Moose Jaw that he can tally up points in the slot and from range. In the slot, he has manufactured deflection back door goals on the power play, rebound goals at the red line and will record backhand short side goals with ease.
The Irma native will skate to the crease and provide his teammates along the half-wall with someone at net front to deflect shots. Firkus will look to skate into the slot when he sees that attackers are busy puck tracking. He decides to blindside them and create passing lanes without drawing much attention.
Firkus does have a habit of trying short side even if the goaltender is blocking the short side extremely well. I’d like to see him work on manipulating goaltenders by appearing to take a backhand top shelf goal, cradling back and then going forehand around the goaltender on the long side. Given his affinity for going backhand, I think he can use that to his advantage to frustrate goaltenders by calling an audible on the fly.
When shooting from range, he has a quick release and that can be a powerful tool for Firkus. At range, when facing an attacker, he will skate with the puck and on a dime snap a shot from medium danger or the perimeter top shelf and beat the goaltender quickly. On those shots, he has excellent weight transfer which only helps him beef up his shooting release. His quick release from range has led to quite a few goals this season and here are two fun ones to check out.
While he does have an excellent shot from range, he does have a habit of attempting turn and wrist shots from range. Unfortunately, it doesn’t often lead to scoring chances and the opposing goaltenders can see it coming.
He doesn’t just try tun and spin shots from range. But, he has also has a habit of trying turn and spin passes. It is a habit that appears in all three zones. When he attempts turn and spin passes, he is often looking to get the puck further away to a teammate cross ice. Yet, a lot of the time, his turn and spin passes go far off target. Firkus puts slightly too much power in his spin passes and struggles to utilize peripheral vision to identify the route that his teammate is going on.
Like I’ve seen with his turn and spin passes, he also will occasionally implement a heavier wind-up on a cross ice saucer pass when looking to pass to an open skater in the slot and he was at perimeter / half-wall. But, in general, Firkus will struggle at generating the necessary power to complete passes from time to time and then put too much power into his passes from time to time.
When dodging traffic, Firkus has a few different tricks up his sleeve in the offensive zone. There are shifts where he looks to complete drop passes at the point when he was facing tight pressure and had no skating lane. Firkus will cut in off the half-wall and dropped a pass to his fellow teammate. But, he loves to complete backhand passes and behind the back passes from the half-wall to the slot. He does it quite a few times each game. It allows him to be deceptive, but he overplays that hand quite a bit. He overplays it to the point where the attacker is still a few seconds away and he tries the backhand feed to the slot. It works though. But, I’d like to see Firkus mix it a bit up otherwise his opponents will catch notice and tailor their defensive strategies accordingly.
Not only will he look to complete backhand passes along the half-wall to get the puck away from danger, but he will also try backhand passes in the slot to connect with his teammate in 2 – on – 1 situations to get the puck on the other side of the goaltender once Firkus has pulled the goaltender to his side.
When passing forehand, Firkus has excellent range and is consistent with cross ice and long range to the slot passing completion totals. His ability to feather passes with quality precision has paved the way to the net front goals. Firkus likes to pass the puck in triangle but he ends up passing extremely close to the stick blade. I would like to see Firkus work on completing more centered passes through the triangle. If not, attackers will intercept his passes.
At the end of the day, Firkus is constantly looking to get the puck to the slot. He generates a lot of scoring chances and that makes him more intriguing. If you are more focused on generating scoring chances and finding teammates in open ice, that gets you more and more ice time down the road in the NHL. It’s the prospects who don’t, who end up struggling to net consistent playing time.
From a positioning perspective, when Firkus sees a teammate tied up in a puck battle close to the blue line, he skates toward him to offer a passing lane. In addition, he will go into the trenches when his teammate passes the puck to the boards behind the red line, but struggles to get the puck around the attacker pressuring him. In the slot, he is looking for open ice. But, most of the time, you can find him along the half-wall.
One of the attributes that Firkus has in his pocket is puck manipulation. I’ve seen instances this season when has a two on one with Brayden Yager, he’ll move the puck to his right to draw the defender closer to him, which opens up plenty of ice for Yager. Firkus then delivers a backhand spin pass to Yager in the slot. His puck manipulation forces the attack to go for a bluff and thus creates enough open ice for Firkus teammate to exploit. But, not only does Firkus do so to generate passing lanes in 2 – on – 1 situations, he also uses it to move the puck to a teammate if he stuck in a high pressure situation. If he is facing a lot of pressure and is isolated, he will try to skate towards the offensive zone blue line, manipulate the attackers to skating up towards the blue line and then attempts a backhand pass to the slot. Not only does that get the puck away from danger but can also lead to a scoring chance.
Firkus is limited by his stick-handling reach, if he accidentally pushes the puck slightly wide he can’t maintain possession. He has difficulty holding onto passes that are slightly further out for him. His reachability hurts him slightly on the forecheck as he can’t rely on his stick to secure the puck first in a tight battle. While he does struggle with his reachability, he understands how to play around it. If he is bobbling possession of the puck in the offensive zone and knows that he won’t able to control the puck completely, he will look to dump the puck to the corner. Not only does he dump the puck if he knows that he can’t maintain possession, but he also does a good job of protecting the puck by playing the puck towards the boards. This makes him harder to steal from should he face tight pressure. Since he doesn’t have the reach to push the puck further out from the attacker, he uses the boards as a safe and secures the puck along it.
Firkus has excellent puck cradling. It allows him to readjust positioning of the puck with ease. His ability to cradle allows his stick-handling to be faster and harder to defend against. His puck cradling has to led to situations in which he can go forehand to backhand to wind-mill around the defender and try a shot short side at the edge of medium danger/high danger.
In the defensive zone, Firkus positions himself at center ice in the slot when there is a puck battle on the other side of the ice. Firkus provides a passing lane and body in the slot and close to the perimeter should the attackers gain control of the puck and skate towards centered ice. His positioning is similar when his defenders are stuck in tight puck battles down low behind the red line, he will drop down low toward the red line. Firkus offers a passing lane and makes it slightly more challenging if the attackers win the puck and try to head to the slot.
He has good puck tracking and that allows himself to maintain good positioning. When he sees an attacker extend his stick with the puck to one side, he matches the movement.
Firkus is usually the last forward back into the defensive zone. While he has played center in the WHL, he has also been battle tested on the wing. Given that his usually behind the rush, at the next level, you should consider playing him on the wing and/or pairing him with defensive wingers.
Between the perimeter and the blue line, he looks to trap attackers even on the left side of the ice. Extends his skate out when right in front of the attacker, which traps the attacker and Firkus intercepts the puck when the attacker attempts to pass. While he does implement decent pressure, he struggles to maintain pace on puck movement along the blue line as his reaction time is slightly off. In addition, I’d like to see him be far more assertive when there is a puck carrier skating into medium danger from behind the net. Those situations pop up and Firkus doesn’t implement enough pressure to keep the attacker away from high danger.
When defending, he likes to manipulate puck carriers with his stick and keep them in low danger, but he needs to be cautious about giving up too much room and allowing the puck carrier to pass through the triangle.
As mentioned earlier in the offensive section, Firkus has limited reachability and that hurts his ability to trap possession of passes that went slightly further wide. His reachability also prevents him from picking up loose pucks and beating forecheckers to the puck. In order to get to those pucks, he has to best the attacker in speed. But, if he can improve his reach, he won’t always have to rely on his skating to get him in position to grab loose pucks.
Firkus has excellent wind-mill stick-handling ability and that allows him to protect the puck well when facing attackers. He cradles the puck back and forth to secure the puck away from the opposition. That can be extremely helpful when toeing the blue line (skating east / west) and looking to find a gap along a heavily trafficked blue line.
Deception is the name of the game for Firkus. He tries to be deceptive with his breakout passes. You will watch him attempt backhand passes to instill a breakout, but needs to work on timing his passes to ensure that the puck won’t be picked up by an attacker. But, it’s not just timing his passes, he overuses his backhand passing on breakouts by passing with no danger in front of him. If he doesn’t have danger in front of him, he should be looking to taking the less riskier pass.
Firkus loves to attempt a lot of no look breakout passes. Which we discussed earlier in the offensive section. It leads to little success in the defensive zone as well as the offensive zone. He doesn’t use peripheral vision to identify the route / trajectory of his teammates and simply doesn’t have great precision due to heavy wind-up.
As I mentioned in the offensive zone, I’d like to see Firkus work on identifying how far attackers are from him and where his teammates are on the ice before attempting a backhand pass. He can have more control and precision on a forehand pass. If he doesn’t need to attempt a backhand pass, he should avoid it or attackers will look to be in range to intercept his pass attempts.
In the neutral zone, Firkus looks to get open ice near the offensive zone blue line and offer a passing lane for his defensemen. He nets a tremendous amount of stretch pass opportunities that allow for a quick breakout for Moose Jaw.
If he is getting sandwiched behind the back by an attacker, he likes to use backhand passes to his defenseman and passes back towards the defender.
But, he doesn’t just use backhand passes to get the puck back towards his defender. He also likes to replicate similar backhand cross ice feeds that you see in both the offensive and defensive zone but this time in the neutral zone. I’d like him to be slightly more selective when using backhand zone exit passes. When there isn’t a ton of traffic on him, there doesn’t need to be a deceptive zone exit backhand pass. His attempts don’t often lead to pass completions. It would be better to go with a normal trajectory / route feed.
As discussed before, Firkus has issues with his reachability. His limited reach means that he will struggle to grab a hold of passes that go slightly wide of him. But, it also means that if he is carrying the puck towards the toe of his stick blade that is he likely to turn some pucks over if he looses grip.
Also, he puts slightly too much power into his saucer passes when he looks to use a saucer pass to his teammate skating towards the offensive zone blue line. We discussed this a bit when addressing his offensive zone play and its key to point out that we are seeing the same issue pop up in the neutral zone as it hurts Firkus’ chances of creating zone entries / instilling a breakout.
When it comes to his defensive play in the neutral zone, he skates behind the rush quite a bit. He is always behind the rush and one of the last guys back. There are shifts in which he is facing traffic in the neutral zone, but it’s rare and he isn’t doing much to prevent his attackers from moving the puck up the ice. For that reason, a NHL team should look to play him on the wing versus at center or surround him with defensive-minded or two-way wingers.
Firkus implements good usage of crossovers. He leans on his edges. His edges and crossovers allow him to retain his speed when driving the puck up the ice. I do believe that he can garner even more power and acceleration when skating north/south on his crossovers if he can lengthen them more.
When skating backwards and adjusting back to skating forwards, I’d like Firkus to work on crossing his feet over with length to get a good push to speed his stride. There have been some situations in which he doesn’t have the length in his crossover to complete the crossover when adjusting from backwards to forwards and thus he looses his balance.
When skating in a straight-line, Firkus has good stride extension length and quality ankle flexion. He utilizes both lengthy strides and short strides to maintain quality acceleration when chasing from zone to zone for a loose puck. Usually, he doesn’t have the speed to out skate his attacker to the loose puck, but does have the speed necessary to put up a fight once the attacker nets possession of the puck. Firkus needs to be slightly faster and garner better acceleration when skating without the puck and looking to keep pace with his forward skating from zone to zone with the puck. If he can work on his crossovers and lengthen them, that will only allow him to be faster, take up more ice and use less skate extensions to get him to where he needs to be.
Firkus has excellent pivots to help net him open ice and force the attackers to lose their close positioning on him.
While he can shake off attackers, he does needs to work on quick pivoting / quick reaction when there is a change in his attacker’s puck movement. His reaction time means that reacts slower and is slower to pivot. That allows the attacker to get enough separation.
Firkus can be an effective top six forward in the NHL and will be a valued asset on special teams. With his shot release and range, he can score goals will ease and snag top shelf snipes. He does a great job of creating dangerous chances in the slot. With that said, you are getting quality production from him. His play in the defensive zone is not as robust as it is in the offensive zone, but if you pair him with the right defensive-minded forwards, he can be rather effective at the next level.
January 4, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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