Aliaksei Protas Nearly Gave Up On Hockey Following First Trip To North America At Age 14

Photo: HC Vitebsk

Washington Capitals forward prospect Aliaksei Protas traveled to North America for the first time at age 14 to play for a youth team. The attempt was unsuccessful. So much so, upon returning home, Protas seriously considered giving up the game of hockey.

“The first coach persuaded me not to give up and try again,” said Protas. “From that moment on, I began to take hockey more seriously and finally decided to connect my life with this sport.”

Protas, 21, told the story during a recent appearance at the Vitebsk hockey school. The event was part of the school’s “Step to Success” campaign. Protas himself is an alumnus of the school.

Thanks to hard work, Protas was again offered to try his hand in Canada. As we now know well, the second trip overseas was was much more successful for Protas, as he became a standout prospect for the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League.

Protas, a 6’6”, 210 lb left-handed forward, was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the third round (#91 overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. After a year in the KHL and AHL, Protas was primed for a chance at a roster spot in Washington.

Making The Leap

Protas impressed Capitals coaches during the team’s 2021 prospect development camp as well as during the Capitals main training camp prior to the start of the 2021-22 season. However, he would ultimately begin his 2021-22 campaign in Hershey.

Fortunately his detour to Pennsylvania would be short lived, as Protas was recalled by the Capitals and made his NHL debut on November 1 against Tampa Bay.

“The only thing I was worried about was not to fall during the warm-up when I went out to skate alone [traditional for a rookie’s first game]. And the rest was fine,” Protas told Hockey.by.

After playing 33 games for the Capitals (3g, 6a), Protas returned to Hershey for the conclusion of the AHL season and the Bears postseason run.

Hard Work Continues

“I was always told that there would be a chance, the main thing is to work,” said Protas. “Nobody knows what might happen in the next moment. I worked hard and believed in myself. I knew that everyone in the club was constantly watching and analyzing, so every day you need to prove that you are worthy. This circumstance did not put pressure on me in any way, it only motivated me to work, knowing that a chance could present itself at any moment, and I had to be ready for it.“

Protas said that that he met with head coach Peter Laviolette before returning to Hershey, and that the Capitals bench boss conveyed a positive message to him.

“Work hard and be ready. You came here, stayed for two months, did a great job,” said Laviolette. “We are grateful to you, you became part of the reason that this team is fighting for the playoffs. You never know what will happen, just work.”

Laviolette’s message to Protas resonated with the 21-year old. There was no discernible dip in his level of play when he returned to Hershey, common in NHL rookies returning to the AHL.

“I took everything in a positive way. I know what to work on, I felt it all. Now, in the summer, I’m trying to squeeze out the maximum in order to become a full-fledged NHL player next season.”

By Jon Sorensen

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About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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8 Responses to Aliaksei Protas Nearly Gave Up On Hockey Following First Trip To North America At Age 14

  1. Anonymous says:

    Protas is a very cerebral individual, very intelligent.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      In tracking Protas’ season in the KHL, from start to finish, it became very apparent he is a huge reader. There would often times be photos from the team plane, with all kinds of shenanigans going on, and Protas would always be in his seat and have his head down in a book.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Capitals CAN NOT risk placing him on waivers this fall. He is still raw and improving.

    • DWGie26 says:

      He won’t have to clear waivers as he is waivers exempt next year (as is McMichael and Lapierre.

      Protas is my favorite prospect. I think he will be a top 6 player. Given his waiver exempt status i think he’ll play mostly in Hershey unless we need a lot of call-ups but next year he should be firmly enchrenched with Caps.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank god he stuck with it. But in reality, I think Protas is the kind of person that will be successful in whatever he chose Ed to do in life.

  4. novafyre says:

    Gee, at 14 I was in middle year of junior high. I had just started shaving, couldn’t drive, did mow neighbors’ yards for money. No way would I have been ready for such a move. I’m impressed at them coming over at 16 and up.

    Jon typo “the second trip overseas was was much more successful ” 4th para, too many was’s.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great article! Side note. I’ve got a SIGNED Darcy Kuemper rookie card that I’m looking to sell, hopefully to a CAPS fan. No scam bs, just a Caps fan with a lot of memorabilia and rent due =O

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