The Washington Capitals are looking at prospect options as they consider which players to sign to new contracts and which players to release. Jakub Vrana was called up for the first time at the end of November and played his first game in a red sweater December 1 against the NY Islanders. Although he didn’t score that game, he did manage to get off four good shots. Vrana would eventually play 21 games and recorded three goals and three assists; one each on a power play opportunity. He played his last game in a Caps jersey on March 16.
Varana got his start playing hockey in the Czech Republic, becoming part of the Sweden’s Linkoping’s team in the 2011 season. He would continue to play in the Czech World Junior hockey tournaments until he was picked by the Capitals in the first round of the draft in 2014. By April 2015 he was replanted to Hershey, Pennsylvania to play for the AHL Bears.
As a Bear, the left winger has proven himself in his first two full seasons (2015 and 2016) with 34 and 36 points respectively. This season he played only 49 games with the Bears because of the time spent with the Caps. Even with the shortened games played, he still ranked eighth on the team in points and fourth in goals scored, Coach Troy Mann commented at the end of the season that Vrana’s play was somewhat inconsistent, in large part because he went back and forth between Hershey and DC. He believes that with more consistency, his game will improve. It wasn’t clear though if that would be in DC or back in Hershey.
It has been widely reported that Vrana is on track to become part of the third or fourth line with the Capitals this summer. He would most likely fill the gap left should the Caps not sign Justin Williams. We question if Vrana is ready for the big show yet. We know that he has the potential to become part of the next generation of “young guns” for the Capitals, although that time may not be this season. The last thing the Caps need to do is add a player to the mix who isn’t prepared for the challenge and rigor of the NHL. At 21, Vrana has time to grow into the player we can come to see great things from.
With development camp around the corner we will have a chance to see Jakub up close and compare him to other prospects in the run for a spot with a red jersey. We’ll look more closely at players like:
Lucas Johansen, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Nathan Walker, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler