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When the Capitals drafted forward Jakub Vrana with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, they did so knowing they were getting a prospect with tremendous upside and a scouting report that described him as a dangerous offensive player with some potential for a steady defensive game. And while the 22-year old Czech is in just his second full NHL season, his upside is already readily apparent.
Playing on a second-line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie this season, Vrana has now scored five goals and added an additional four assists for nine points in 18 games played, averaging 14:33 of ice time a night for first-year Head Coach Todd Reirden. The thing that has become much more apparent this season compared to his inaugural season is the amount of confidence with which he plays. He appears much more confident in his decision-making and handling of the puck, and his defensive responsibility, while still a work in progress, has also improved.
Through 18 games, Vrana is already on pace to exceed his 13 goals, 14 assists, and 27 points from last season; he is currently on pace for 23 goals, 18 assists, and 41 points in 82 games. While the 2018-19 season is still relatively young (meaning anything could happen between now and April 2019), it is an encouraging sign for Vrana’s development, but it could also benefit him in contract negotiations when his entry-level contract expires next summer. However, everything about Vrana’s skill set and the way in which he plays the game points toward a future as a bona fide superstar. Much like fellow former first-round pick and teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana possesses incredible puck-handling skills and this combined with blazing speed, gives him the potential to change the pace of a game for his team. As he gains more experience and learns from mistakes, Vrana could easily become one of the game’s best players.
At only 6’0″, 197 pounds, Vrana could add some muscle to his frame, which would enable him to win more puck battles and combining that with his speed, help him get around defenders. Vrana shows all the signs of blossoming into one of the Caps’ most dynamic offensive weapons, and given some time, could easily raise his game to elite status. And still only 22, that is a tantalizingly scary thought for opposing teams. Vrana is destined for superstardom…it’s just a matter of time.
By Michael Fleetwood