With the 39th overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft, the Washington Capitals selected goalie, Vitek Vanecek. The Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic native is now 19 years old and stands at 6’1”, 180 pounds. Despite Vanecek’s lack of prototypical NHL goalie size, the Capitals believe his lateral quickness, agility, and glove hand will more than make up for his lack of ideal NHL size.
Vanecek, who’s spending his first professional season in North America with the South Carolina Stingrays, currently has a .916 save percentage and one shutout in 14 games played. Vanecek is taking a hiatus this winter from the North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center and playing on the world stage at the 2016 World Junior Championship. Vanecek is looking to rebound from a dismal performance in the 2015 World Junior Championship where he played five games, and allowed 13 goals against on 76 shots on goal (.829 save percentage).
Vanecek and the Czech Republic opened the preliminary round against Russia on Saturday, here’s what I took from Vanecek’s performance.
– Plays the puck well, to include when forecheckers pressure.
– Puck tracking, situational awareness, and positioning are solid.
– Alert on the ice, bails teammate out with mis-play in front of net.
– No wasted movement in his game. Below, he goes post-to-post, low to high.
– No panic in his game.
– Manages traffic/screeners well while tracking the puck.
– Battles, stays with the play/puck, and takes up as much net as possible.
– Thrives in high pressure situations. Late in the third period during a tied game, he manages the traffic in front and makes a huge shoulder save.
– Patient and waits for the shooter to make his move before he makes his.
– Only negative noticed throughout the game was his stick positioning; he seems to have a habit of only having the heel of his stick on the ice.
Despite the poor stick placement above, Vanecek’s patient and calm demeanor will serve him well in his goaltending future. He has no unnecessary movement in his game and despite his lack of ideal NHL size, he doesn’t venture too far out of the goalie crease, relying on his quick lateral reflexes to keep the puck from denting the twine. With more experience facing North American shooters in the ECHL, there’s no doubt Vitek will give the Capitals reason to believe they’ve made the right decision in the second round of the 2014 NHL entry draft.
By Stephen Hudson (@CapsGoalies)