Photo: USA Today
When the Capitals drafted forward Jakub Vrana with the 13th overall selection in the first-round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, they did so with the vision he would one day become a valuable contributor and key component of their NHL roster. Just under five years after that draft, Vrana has blossomed into an offensive weapon and future star. In this piece, NoVa Caps looks at his growth as a player and ascension into a cornerstone.
Unlike most prospects, who need a few seasons in the American Hockey League to develop and erase any blemishes in their game, Vrana played just 88 regular season games over the course of three seasons with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears, playing three games in 2014-15, 36 games in 2015-16, and 49 games in 2016-17, recording 75 points (35 goals, 40 assists) in those games. Vrana spent his “junior” years playing overseas.
Vrana got his first taste of the NHL game during the 2016-17 season, in which he played in 21 games for the Caps, recording six points (three goals, three assists) and averaging 11:07 of ice time a night for then-Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz. The 2017-18 season would be Vrana’s first full season in the NHL, as he played in 73 games and recorded a respectable 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists), with a plus-2 rating averaging 12:30 of ice time a night. In 23 playoff games played, Vrana recorded eight points en route to the Capitals’ first Stanley Cup championship.
This past season saw Vrana break out and show the potential to become a future superstar in the league. Under first-year Head Coach Todd Reirden, Vrana averaged 14:02 a night, and recorded career-highs in goals (24), assists (23), and points (47) in all 82 games played, with a plus-20 rating. In addition, Vrana had a career-best 14.9% shooting percentage and was entrusted with more power play time, as he averaged 1:08 of power play time a night, good enough for eighth-most on the team.
As a pending Restricted Free Agent, it remains to be seen whether the Capitals will hand Vrana a short-term bridge contract or long-term deal, but Vrana’s ascension and quick development at the age of 23 is a result of his ability to make an impact using his speed and offensive skill-set, something that will make him a key component of the team going forward.
By Michael Fleetwood