Washington Capitals prospect Aliaksei Protas was named “Best Rookie” for the first round of this year’s KHL playoffs. This is the first time in KHL history that a Dinamo Minsk player was nominated for the postseason award.
In five games of the Gagarin Cup playoffs, the 20-year-old Belarusian center scored a goal, had three assists and averaged 17:12 in time on ice. In the entire history of Dinamo Minsk, only one Belarusian scored more points than Protas in a single playoff round. (Alexander Kulakov had one goal and four assists in 2011 in the series against Lokomotiv).
“I am glad that I received such recognition, this is a nice bonus to the season, which turned out to be fruitful. In this playoff series I really wanted to help the team. Everyone fought, played at the maximum, a lot turned out, but, unfortunately, the final result is not what we were striving for. Everyone wanted to advance to the next round,” said Protas in an interview for the Dinamo website.
In November, Protas was named the best rookie for the 10th week of the regular season. Then, in three away games, the forward scored 3(1 + 2) points. Protas and Dinamo Minsk were eliminated last week in five games against CKA.
In total, Protas scored 10 goals and eight assists in 58 games in the 2020/21 KHL regular season.
It is uncertain as to what the next step will be for Protas at this point in 2021. Prince Albert media has confirmed that he will not be returning to the Raiders this season, due to the logistics involved in having a player return from Europe. (He would need a national interest exemption from the Canadian government—much like incoming players and teams did for the World Juniors in Edmonton this past holiday season. Then he would have to serve a two-week quarantine).
It is unclear at this point if he would be able to report to Hershey. In a “normal” season Protas would not be eligible due to age and CHL eligibility requirements. However, because the WHL will not be allowing European players to return for their abbreviated season, it is uncertain if this allows Protas some leeway in playing in the AHL.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan spoke about prospects loaned to Europe in an interview with Capitals media last week. He said ”as teams finish in Europe, we’re gonna try and bring guys back and put them in Hershey to finish up the year in Hershey.”
By Jon Sorensen