After placing Nic Dowd on the injured reserve list earlier today, the Washington Capitals announced they had recalled 2019 third-round pick Aliaksei Protas from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. Ahead of the Capitals’ game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, Protas expressed the excitement of being called to the NHL.
Among the first people Protas notified after receiving the news of being recalled by the Caps yesterday were his parents, who he talked to shortly after receiving the news.
“Mom cried a little bit, she so happy for me, my parents, everybody”, Protas said. “So now this time, I enjoy every moment here so, so happy”.
Protas expressed his hope of playing against Tampa Bay. “It’s actually fantastic. Hopefully we’ll get to the roster today, hopefully we’ll get a chance…I’m just happy to be here”.
Aliaksei Protas does his solo rookie lap ahead of the Capitals’ game vs Tampa Bay pic.twitter.com/eqCKcXAIR1
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) November 1, 2021
The 6’6″, Vitebsk, Belarus native has recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in six games with the Hershey Bears this season, after making his professional debut with the team last season. During his time in Junior hockey with the Prince Albert Raiders (Saskatchewan), Protas lived with the Pagé family (Roger and Kim, and their daughters Brooklyn and Cailin), who served as a billet home during his time with the Raiders (you can read about that HERE). Roger, who gave Protas the nickname “Viper of Vitebsk”, tells NoVa Caps:
“Kim , the girls, and I are overjoyed at the news of Alexei getting this opportunity. I’ve never met a person so focused in every aspect of their life to achieve their goal. I’m also so very happy for the Capitals fans, you’ve got a real gem in the Viper, we’ll be watching the game alongside you tonight from P.A. [Prince Albert]. Go Caps”
Protas and Capitals forward Brett Leason, who made his NHL debut on October 29 against the Arizona Coyotes, played together in Prince Albert and have also played together in Hershey this season. Shortly before the start of the Caps’ game against the Lightning, it was revealed the two would be linemates in Protas’ NHL debut.
“We’ve got a pretty good team. We had a real good start I think”, said Protas of Hershey’s season thus far, “We have a good team, we are playing a good game”. Of playing with Leason, Protas said,
“I think I got better, playing with same guys, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Brett Leason. I enjoy playing with those guys, we had a pretty good chemistry”.
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
39-Mantha, 24-McMichael, 10-Sprong
62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 21-Hathaway
73-Sheary, 59-Protas, 49-Leason
57-van Riemsdyk, 2-Schultz
Vanecek vs. Vasilevskiy. #CapsBolts
— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) November 1, 2021
On how having Leason with the NHL club upon his arrival has helped his adjustment, Protas says it helped to have a familiar face. “Yeah, once he got called up I was so happy for him because we played together on the same line, I was so happy for him and it’s easier”.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 1, 2021
The Capitals’ veteran core has been lauded before for being a welcoming group of players to join for outside players, and Protas reiterated that sentiment when asked about how players such as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov have helped him when in training camp and upon his recall to the NHL.
“For sure they help me a lot, they help me like every day, talk to me, support me, during the games. When I’m on the ice, playing with Kuzy you can hear him from everywhere on the ice, like his support, so it means a lot for me, so it really makes it easier…”
Protas’ three assists in Hershey this season are tied for the fifth-most on the Bears’ roster. In addition to his brief stint with Hershey last season, Protas also spent time with Dinamo Minsk of the Kontinental Hockey League, and played with Belarus in the IIHF World Championship.
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