We continue our prospect review and forecast series with a review and forecast for goaltender Vitek Vanecek. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page on the top menu or right here.)
Vitek Vanecek (22) signed a three-year entry-level contract on July 15, 2014, for $863,333 average annual value (AAV). Vanecek will be a restricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He will be waivers-exempt for the coming 2018-2019 season.
A second round draft pick by the Capitals in 2014 (#39 overall), Vanecek played the 2015-16 season in South Carolina, appearing in 32 regular season games and 11 postseason games.
The native of Havlickuv Brod, Czech Rep joined the Hershey Bears full-time for the 2016-2017 season. He played in 39 games amassing a 2.54 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
2017-2018 SEASON SUMMARY
Vanecek started the season with an injury and didn’t see game action in Hershey until November 11th. He gave up four goals on just 12 shots that he faced in his first game back, and wouldn’t start another game for almost two weeks. However, in his next start he gave up just one goal on 28 shots he faced for the win. As it turns out, these two games would provide a good snapshot for the remainder of the season for Vanecek.
Vanecek ended the season 12-13-2 with a 3.04 GAA and a .888 save percentage. Vanecek’s relatively poor numbers for the season were not a direct result of his play, but more related to the Bears porous blueline and the struggle Vanecek endured to find consistency during the season.
2017-2018 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Vitek Vanecek during the 2017-2018 season.
The Hershey Bears assigned Vanecek to the South Carolina Stingrays on November 3rd to continue injury rehabilitation (more here). He would return to Hershey where he played in just two games in the month of November, going 1-1 and giving up five goals on 40 shots for an .875 save percentage.
After starting the season on the injured list, Vitek Vanecek was busy in December. He played in nine games for,the Month. In 11 games this season, he has a 2.40 GAA and a .908 save percentage. Vanecek and Copley are essentially battling for playing time at this point, so it will be interesting to see what the spring has in store for the duo. Who is next up after Philipp Grubauer is essentially at stake, until Ilya Samsonov arrives in Hershey.
Vitek Vanecek was on fire for the month of December. He won five times and was clearly Hershey’s best player. He started off January the same way. He stopped all 29 shots he faced in a 3-0 shutout over Charlotte on January 7. He surrendered two goals in his next start versus Lehigh Valley on January 13, but only got one goal in support and lost 2-1. Vanecek’s last two starts have not gone as well. Springfield found success going low to Vanecek’s glove side on January 17. He was beaten four times on 11 shots and was pulled from the game in the second period. Then, he gave up five goals in his next start against the Providence Bruins on January 26. In that contest, he was hurt by undisciplined play by the Bears, as the Bruins struck for three power play goals. Vanecek has seen his GAA rise to 2.60 (was 2.40 after December) and his save percentage drop to .901 from .908. Overall, Vanecek has been solid this season. Like Copley, he has been hurt by Hershey’s inability to score. It is hard on the goalies when they cannot give up more than a goal because if they do, it is likely that the team loses because the offense rarely scores more than two goals in a game.
The final three starts in January were not good for Vanecek, but the Czech netminder has turned things around in February. He surrendered five goals in a shootout win against Charlotte on the 3rd of February, but made some big saves to keep the Bears in the game. He then stopped four of the five shots in the shootout. Vanecek’s next start on February 9 was a rough one, as he was pulled after giving up four goals on 16 shots against Lehigh Valley. However, he then bounced back with three solid starts. He made 22 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over Rochester. That win started Hershey’s five-game winning streak. Vanecek then beat Lavell, saving 17 shots. The Czech goalie didn’t get the win in his last start, but that was no fault of his own. The Bears were outshot 40 to 14 by Rockford. He made 19 saves in the first period, allowing Hershey to escape the period down only 1-0. He then stopped 13 of 14 in the second period. Vanecek was the only reason that the Bears earned a point in the game as he made 36 saves.
After surrendering five goals on 19 shots to Lehigh Valley on March 2, Vanecek’s play has been strong. He stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced, including 14 in the first period of a 3-0 loss to Binghamton on March 10. Vanecek kept the Bears in the game, but as has been a problem all season, the offense just could not score. Then, he made 22 stops in a 4-2 win over Springfield on March 17. Nine of those saves came in the opening period. A week later, Vanecek was at it again. He saved 26 of the 27 shots he faced in a 2-1 victory over the Hartford Wolfpack. He stopped 13 of 14 shots in the second period. His best save came against former teammate John Albert in the middle frame. Albert came in all alone on a breakaway. Vanecek stoned Albert with a sliding pad save to his left. The Czech goalie stopped 78 of the 83 shots he saw during that stretch. He dropped his next start, a 4-2 loss to Hartford. He turned away 27 of the 30 shots he saw, but the Bears were hurt by a lack of discipline as Hartford scored twice on the power play. Vancek’s last start was not a good one as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers put five past him. He was not alone on the night as Hershey fell behind 5-1 before making it interesting (lost 6-4). Overall, his play has been good in March. Vanecek’s play has played well enough that it can be argued that he deserved the recall to Washington ahead of Pheonix Copley.
Vanecek will likely assume the starters role to begin the season in Hershey, but make no mistake, the plan is to get Ilya Samsonov playing time, and start him as soon as possible. There will be pressure from Washington to see that this happens, and happens fairly quickly. Therefore, it’s likely Vanecek will assume the backup role, and see less playing time this season.
Long term, Vanecek’s ideal path (right now) would be to eventually assume a backup position to Samsonov in Washington, once Holtby’s contract expires in two seasons (2021).
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By Jon Sorensen