“We Are Pushing Each Other, But In A Good Way”: Vitek Vanecek Talks Competition with Ilya Samsonov, Rollercoaster Offseason, and Recovering From Injury

Perhaps no member of the Washington Capitals had more of a rollercoaster offseason than goaltender Vitek Vanecek. After a strong rookie campaign in 2020-21, the Capitals left him exposed in the 2021 Expansion Draft, in which he was selected by the Seattle Kraken. Just a week later, the Capitals re-acquired him in a trade. In his meeting with the media on Friday, he spoke about the turn of events that led him back to Washington, his relationship with Ilya Samsonov, and more.

Vanecek touched on the whirlwind of being within the Capitals organization for so long (having been drafted 39th overall in 2014) and leaving via the Expansion Draft, “It was crazy. You start thinking about it, you’ve been here long time, six years, and then I was just drafted by Seattle. I was thinking you know, it’s something new, new people, new start, but it was a quick comeback, and then I’m so happy I can be back with the people I know and the organization is great”.

Vanecek explained that he found out the Caps were interested in re-acquiring him after former Capitals (and then-Colorado Avalanche netminder) Philipp Grubauer signed with the Kraken in free agency, and that he found out he was returning to Washington at 2 AM (he was in his native Czech Republic), “I knew that when they signed Grubauer, so I asked my agent what we can do, and he said ‘maybe you’ll be traded’, and he told me just wait, and I was just waiting and they called me at 2 A.M., so they packed me up, I’m traded back to Washington after seven days, I was in Czech”. Vanecek said that he had not begun to look at places to live, but was thinking of sending his car to Seattle. In addition, he had begun to have new goalie pads and a goalie mask prepped for Seattle.

Vanecek also discussed his injury suffered during the opening moments of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which was to his hamstring. Vanecek explained the injury and the recovery over the offseason, “It was just a faceoff and I didn’t see the puck, so when he pass it, I didn’t see it because it was behind Jensen’s [Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen] skate, and I didn’t see the pass and I see it the last second so I try push harder like normally and splayed my legs, and I strained my hamstring. It was a tough injury taking care of this summer. It take me 12 weeks to get back, so I was practicing in Czech, like just a little bit, and after 12 weeks I started doing like normal things”. Vanecek said that he feels good entering the season.

The 25-year old netminder admitted that the injury was tough to grapple with, saying, “I was feeling really good before the game, first NHL playoff and ready to go. But after that injury, it wasn’t fun, I was really sad. But it is what it is, I’m just a person and I was injured so I tried to help the guys, tried to push them”.

He touched on the upcoming season and the likelihood he and fellow young goaltender Ilya Samsonov would be pushing one another for playtime. “We are just pushing each other, but in a good way. I feel like we will play better. I’m happy that I can be here with him here because he’s a really good guy and it’s really fun talking with him and we can push each other”.  Additionally, Vanecek touched on what he wanted to improve on this season, “I want to just be good in skating. Get better in the skating because NHL is so quick, and if I get better in the skating, everything get easy for me”.

Finally, Vanecek expressed he would be excited to get a chance to participate in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, saying, “There is so good many goalies in Czech, they play in KHL, Czech League, and NHL too, so let’s see what happen in couple months, I will do everything for it and it will be great if I can go to Olympics”.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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