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 in the top menu or right here.)
Vitek Vanecek is a 23-year-old goalie who has primarily played in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. The Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic native was drafted in the second round (#39 overall) by the Capitals in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He 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.
Vanecek 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 and a 18-10-7-5 record.
In 2017-18, during an injury plagued year, he had a save percentage of .888 and a GAA of 3.04 in 32 games, posting a record of 12-13-2-2. During 2018-19, he played in 38 games and had a 2.62 GAA and a save percentage of .907 and a 21-10-6-2 record
His overall record for Hershey is 110 games played, a 52-33-15-9 record, a goals against average of 2.69, a goals against average of .903, and a record of 52-33-15-9.
2018-2019 SEASON SUMMARY
Vanecek played in 38 games during the 2018-19 season and had a 2.62 GAA and a save percentage of .907 and a 21-10-6-2 record. He rebounded nicely from his injury plagued 2017-18 season.
He was part of a goalie tandem with fellow prospect, Ilya Samsonov. He was named Player of the Month for October. He and Samsonov both did well in January when the Bears rebounded to make the playoffs after a terrible start which found them in last place in their division around New Year’s.
2018-2018 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Vitek Vanecek during the 2018-2019 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Vanecek was the forgotten goalie coming into this season with the focus being on the prized prospect in Samsonov. Vanecek is not forgotten now. He has played well and has accounted for three of Hershey’s four wins this season. The Czech goalie went 2-0-1 with a 1.62 goals–against average and a .949 save percentage in three games during the week ending October 21. This included a 40-save performance at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leading the Bears to their first win of the season. He then stole a point for his team in Charlotte when Hershey was outshot 33-13 and then shut out the same opponent the next night. Vanecek was named the AHL Player of the Week for his performance in those games. After dropping his next start at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Vanecek rebounded with a strong effort against Lehigh Valley. He made 34 saves and led the Bears to a 3-1 win over the rival Phantoms. Vanecek is playing with a lot of confidence. He is seeing the puck well and his positioning has been on point. Parker Milner was called up on October 31 after it was revealed that Vanecek was dealing with a minor injury.
Vanecek has played just one game in the month of November after suffering an upper-body injury in a 3-1 win over Lehigh Valley on October 28. He finished that game with 34 saves and a win, but wouldn’t dress for a game until November 16. He backed up Parker Milner that day and on November 17. He returned to the net on November 24 and picked up right where he left off prior to his injury. He made 25 saves and backstopped the Bears to a 3-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. 13 of those saves came in the third period. Vanecek currently ranks seventh in the AHL with a 2.36 goals-against average and also sits with a .919 save percentage. The Czech goalie has been one of Hershey’s top players in the first quarter of the season.
Vanecek had an up-and-down month in December, but he remains Hershey’s clear number one netminder with the struggles of Samsonov. He started the month with a 29-save victory over Binghamton and was then a hard luck loser in a 1-0 defeat to Lehigh Valley on December 7. He surrendered 13 goals in his next three starts, as his losing streak extended to four games. He rebounded with a solid performance against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a 5-1 win on December 28. He played well the following night against Providence, but was done in by a poor third period by the team in front of him. Vanecek’s confidence remains high and he provides a steadying presence in net.
Vitek Vanecek’s workload was reduced in January, making only four appearances in January. He won all three games in which he played. He gave up four goals in his first three appearances in January, but won two of those games, including a 35-save performance in a 6-4 win over Grand Rapids. He actually played very well in that outing, but was the victim of some lackadaisical play after the Bears took a 5-1 lead. His limited appearances were due to Samsonov’s strong play in net. Vanecek did deservedly represent Hershey at the AHL All-Star Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts on January 28. In the All-Star game, he made six saves and allowed no goals for the Atlantic Division in the Championship game, but was pulled for the deciding shootout (his replacement gave up two goals and the Atlantic lost to the shootout 2-1 to the North Division). He played in all four games, surrendering only two goals.
Vanecek went 5-1 in February to bring his season win total to 15. He is three wins shy of tying his career-high of 18, set in his rookie season in 2016-17. He had a seven-game winning streak snapped at Bridgeport on February 24. On February 9 against Charlotte, the Czech goalie single-handily kept the Bears in the game. He stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced, as Hershey was outshot 16-4 in the frame. The Bears tied it late and then won it in a shootout after Vanecek stopped all five attempts by Charlotte. He made 33 saves in his next start on February 13 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. None were bigger than his save on Adam Johnson’s penalty shot with the Bears trailing 3-2 halfway through the third period. He kept it a one-goal game and the Bears tied it on Jayson Megna’s power play 1:39 later (Hershey would win in a shootout).
The Czech goalie rotated starts in each of the 13 games in March with Samsonov. In his seven starts during the month, Vanecek went 3-1-2-1. He recorded his second shutout of the season (making 17 saves) in a 1-0 overtime win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 19. In his last start of the month on March 11, Vanecek made 21 saves in regulation and overtime and then added two more in the shootout as the Bears defeated Bridgeport 2-1. His biggest save came in overtime when he robbed former Bears teammate Chris Bourque to save the game. The win over Bridgeport was Vanecek’s 18th of the season, matching his career-high.
Vanecek played in 5 games for the remainder of the regular season, starting four and appearing briefly in another. He won three games and lost the other game in overtime.
For the playoffs, he performed very well in the first round, winning a shutout and losing the second game. He gave up just three goals in that round. The second round was not so good, as he lost two games as the Bears were swept in Round 2. His statistics weren’t great but the Bears defense had not played well.
Vanecek will likely remain in Hershey as one of their two goalies and looks to still alternate in goal with Ilya Samsonov. With Braden Holtby’s contract expiring after the 2019-20 season, the play is for both Vanacek and Samsonov to get playing time in Washington in preparation for the possible departure of Holtby. The likely long term prognosis is for Vanacek to end up as the backup to Ilya Samsonov.
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By Diane Doyle