The news of Aliaksei Protas being assigned to AHL Hershey on Tuesday marked a symbolic conclusion to a whirlwind world tour for the 6’-6” Belarusian center. After playing for five different teams over the last 12 months, he will now get to relax a bit and spend the next six to eight months working on his game with one team.
The 2020-21 season was jam-packed with hockey for Protas. While many prospects were struggling to find ice time due to the world-wide pandemic, Protas would play from September straight through May.
He began his mega-season as a loan to Dinamo Minsk in the KHL, recording 10 goals and eight assists in 58 regular season games and one goal and three assists in five postseason games before being re-assigned to Hershey in April. Protas worked on his pro game and honed it by the end of his KHL season. He even took home a few awards and set a record.
As soon as Dinamo Minsk was eliminated in the second round of the KHL playoffs, it was time to set his sights to the west. Protas would record two goals and five assists in 16 AHL games while playing for the Bears in Chocolatetown.
Protas would then immediately exit Hershey for the World Championship in Riga, Latvia, and record two assists in six games played with the Belarus National team. It wasn’t Vitebsk, but it was close.
After a few months off, and marrying his longtime girlfriend, Protas returned to work. He played for the Belarus National team in their Olympic Qualifying tournament in late summer. He recorded an assist on a game-winning goal in the four-team tournament.
Time for a break? Hardly. Protas would next be one of 20 Capitals prospects to participate in the Capitals’ development camp held at MedStar Capitals Iceplex at the end of September.
He would follow that up by participating in the Capitals main training camp. He played in two NHL preseason games, recording a goal in one of those games, before he was assigned to Hershey on Tuesday.
So in summary, over the last 12 months Protas played in 58 games for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL (10g, 8a), 16 games with the Hershey Bears in the AHL (2g, 5a), six games with the Belarus National team in the World Championship (0g, 2a), three games with the Belarus National team in their Olympic qualification tournament (0g, 1a), participated in Capitals development camp and played in two preseason games for the Capitals, recording a goal in his first game. More than 85 games in total for five different teams.
Prior to the onslaught of the pandemic, Protas was scheduled to return to the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL, but the pandemic would create havoc with hockey plans and scheduling world-wide. Most would lose playing time, while a rare few made the most of it.
The last 12 months may have been the most beneficial year of development for a Capitals prospect in many years, if not ever. It’s hard to image one better. All in a time when most of the Capitals prospects were scrounging for games.
How he found time to get married is the real head-scratcher. I feel like a slacker.
By Jon Sorensen
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