Photo: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Vitek Vanecek, goaltender for the Hershey Bears. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page right here.)
Vitek Vanecek, 24, is a 6’1” left-handed netminder who has played the last four seasons for 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. Vanecek signed a three-year extension for $716,667 AAV on July 1, 2019. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-2022 season.
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
He rebounded nicely from his injury plagued 2017-18 season. Vanecek played in 38 games during the 2018-19 season, had a 2.62 GAA, a save percentage of .907 and a 21-10-6-2 record.
Statistics aside, the 2019-2020 season may be Vanecek’s best season so far. After yielding four goals in his first start of the season, Vanecek played well through the middle of November, before giving up five goals to Providence on November 24th. Vanecek responded with a shutout and three one-goal games in his next five starts before he gave up five goals to Utica on December 27. Vanecek remained hot the first half of January but slumped in the second half of the first month of 2020. Vanecek stole the show at this year’s AHL All-Star Game, where he won MVP honors in the 3-on-3 tournament. February was another good month for Vanecek, which included two one-goal games in six starts for the month. Vanecek started the month of March on fire, with a shutout and one-goal game (stopping 56 of 57 shots faced) in a back-to-back weekend set against the Wolf Pack in Hartford. Vanecek was 10th in the AHL in Save Percentage (.917) and 5th in the AHL in Goals-Against Average (2.26). It could be argued that Vanecek played the best of his career in the second half of the season.
Stats: Elite Prospects
2019-2020 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2019-2020 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
It has been a bit of an up and down start to the season for the Czech netminder. He gave up four goals in a 4-3 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Opening Night, but bounced back and made 23 saves in Hershey’s inaugural win against Lehigh Valley on October 12. His next start was his worst of the season; the 2019 All-Star surrendered three goals on 11 shots at Toronto and was pulled early in the second period. Vanecek bounced back in his next start and stopped 23 shots in the Bears’ 4-2 win over Laval. He finished the month with an .883 Save Percentage and Goals-Against Average of 2.90.
Trending – Down
The Czech netminder spent part of November in the NHL serving as Braden Holtby’s backup in Washington as the Capitals navigated salary cap issues. In Hershey, Vanecekstarted five games. He earned the win on November 2 over Providence. He was the hard luck loser in a 2-1 loss at Hartford, making 25 stops. Vanecek struggled in a 6-3 loss to Providence on November 24, surrendering five goals on 32 shots. It was his first action since November 10 and the rust showed. He was undone by undisciplined play by Hershey in a 2-1 loss to Belleville on November 30 in his final start of the month. Vanecek looks to be finally settling in and pulling his game together after a very shaky start In October. For the season, Vanecek is 4-4-1-0 with a 2.84 Goals-Against Average and an .885 Save Percentage.
December was a very good month for Vanecek. The Czech netminder won six of his seven starts, giving him 10 wins on the season. His strong play compelled Hershey Head Coach Spencer Carbery to break his typical goalie rotation and this move was a large part of the team’s successful month. Vanecek started seven of the last 10 games in the month. Vanecek turned away 32 shots in a 1-0 shutout over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on December 7, and preserved that shutout and the win by stoning Lehigh Valley’s David Case in close with 1:17 remaining in the game. Against those same Phantoms on December 15, the Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic native bailed out his defense on a few occasions. When his defender fell down, he stopped a breakaway. When another got beat, Vanecek was there to bail him out and the Bears won 3-1. The Czech goalie played a big role in helping Hershey kill off a lengthy 5-on-3 in a 5-2 victory over Bridgeport on December 14. For the season, Vanecek is 10-5-1-1 with a 2.35 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
After a stellar December, Vanecek’s level dropped a little in January. He started six games and went 3-3. He surrendered five goals in a loss to Charlotte on January 15 and four in a loss to Springfield on January 22. On the side, the Czech netminder was unlucky to not record a shutout against Rochester on January 19. He made 30 saves in that game, including 23 in the first two periods, and lost his shutout with 28 seconds to go after the Bears took an unnecessary icing. Thirty was a lucky number for Vanecek, as he had 30 saves in each of his three wins in the month. The netminder was added to the Atlantic Division All-Star team for the AHL All-Star Challenge in Ontario, California. It was Vanecek’s second straight All-Star appearance and he made the most of it. First, he was the tri-winner of the top goalie award at the AHL Skills Competition by making 14 saves. Then, he helped lead the Atlantic Division to victory in the AHL All-Star Challenge. He surrendered just two goals in four games and was the named the competition’s Most Valuable Player.
The Czech netminder finished the month strong, winning his last three starts to finish February with a 4-2 record. In his last two starts, Vanecek stopped 46 of the 48 shots he faced. In a 5-2 victory over Lehigh Valley on February 9, he turned away all 15 shots fired at him in the third period. The Bears would score three times in the third despite being outshot 15-5. Vanecek kept his team in the game and gave them the chance to win. The netminder made two big saves on a penalty kill in the first period against Charlotte on February 25, first stoning a wide-open Oliwer Kaski with a pad save. Later on the same power play, Steven Lorentz came in on a mini-breakaway, but Vanecek made a big save to deny the scoring chance. Vanecek ranks seventh in the AHL with a Goals-Against Average of 2.38 and is tied for 10th in the league with 17 wins.
Vanecek has shown consistent progress in his development trajectory each and every season with the Bears. He is about ready to begin getting games for the Capitals. He was called up during the 2019-2020 season, but didn’t see any action.
Look for Vanecek to get several games with the Capitals during the next season. Once Ilya Samsonov secures the number one roll for the Capitals, and gets a few more NHL games under his belt, Vanecek will likely begin to assume the backup netminder position for the Capitals.
Bears Down Wolf Pack, 1-0; Vitek Vanecek Stops 30 Shots, Eddie Whittchow Scores Game-Winner
Capitals Recall Goaltender Vitek Vanecek From AHL Hershey Bears
Vitek Vanecek Wins MVP Of 2020 AHL All-Star Challenge
Czech’ing In: Vitek Vanecek’s Rise To The Top In Hershey
Bears Beat Phantoms 1-0; Vitek Vanecek Pitches Shutout, Mike Sgarbossa’s Power Play Goal The Difference
Capitals Recall Travis Boyd and Vitek Vanecek From Hershey, Assign Ilya Samsonov and Tyler Lewington to Hershey
Capitals Re-sign Vitek Vanecek To Three-Year Deal
Hershey Bears Lose Third Consecutive Game Against Charlotte Checkers (Photos)
Bears Fall To Checkers 3-1; Trail Series 3-0
Checkers Score Four Goals Early, Beat Bears 4-1, Take 1-0 Series Lead
Hershey’s Two-Headed Monster: Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek Backstop Bears Return To Winning Ways
Sound Tigers Beat Bears 3-2 In Overtime; Force Game 5 On Saturday
The Bears Silence Sound Tigers 2-0; Tie Series 1-1
By Jon Sorensen
Vanecek has to pass through waivers next season if he does not make the team. He will definitely be claimed if the Caps put him on waivers. He was a second round draft pick and he is progressing well in his current development. The Caps can either 1) keep him in the NHL team next season 2) trade him or 3) lose him for nothing on waivers. Those are likely the only choices.
Or 4) callup from Hershey for injury (waivers exempt). He won’t be the backup this season (#1), as that would give the Capitals goaltending tandem a total of 26 games of NHL experience. Caps will sign a vet. For #2, they aren’t trading him.
Are you sure? He signed his ELC at 18 and he is 24 as of mid January, so wouldn’t this very season be his sixth and final year of waivers exemption? Which would mean he is no longer exempt next season. Sorry if I am misunderstanding something. I just wanted to clarify his status. Thanks.