Examining The Performance And Management Of Aliaksei Protas

To say the Washington Capitals have dealt with a lot of injuries during the 2022-23 season would be a major understatement. Team doctors have certainly earned their pay this season, tending to the Capitals steady flow of casualties.

As a result, the Capitals have been required to make quite a few corrspaonding roster moves continuously throughout the season, which included the signing of free agents and numerous callups from AHL Hershey. One of the Capitals forwards caught-up in the perpetual roster flux has been forward Aliaksei Protas.


Before digging too deep into the performance and management of Protas, it should be noted that Protas was the Capitals only “flexible” forward this season, as he could move freely between Hershey and Washington without having to clear waivers. That’s very handy when you are juggling a number of other forwards and trying to figure out what works best for the team. Moving him to and from Hershey (paper or for real) was simply the path of least resistance with regards to roster management.

However, that roster flexibility has also limited Protas’ playing time this season, which has obviously been a hinderance in his development. In fact, Protas has only been able to work his way back into the lineup when there was an injury among the Capitals forward group.

But is that the best play for the team? What if Protas was needed full time in Washington, and has proven he belongs in Washington lineup every night? Let’s take a look at Protas’ performance so far this season.


Let’s begin by taking a quick look at the basic numbers for Protas. Protas has played 45 games for the Capitals so far this season. The Capitals are 22-16-7 with Protas in the lineup. That’s a points percentage of .567%.

Obviously there are numerous other variables that go into winning games, so lets take this as one data point and continue the analysis.


Protas returned to the Capitals lineup this week, out of pure necessity, when Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (injury) and forward Sonny Milano (non-Covid illness) were unable to play. His last game action was more than a month prior against San Jose on February 12.

Regardless of the month layoff from actual game action, Protas returned and made an immediate impact on the team in both games he’s played so far. Here’s a brief breakdown of his line performance for each game:

[The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck and the NoVa Caps Advanced Analytics Model (NCAAM). If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary]

Rangers Game

The following table plots the expected goals for percentage (xGF%) line stats from the Rangers game. [Click to enalrge]

The fourth line of Protas, Dowd and Aube-Kubel returned the fourth line to the prominence demonstrated earlier in the season and in recent season’s past (more on that later). The fourth line posted an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 60.27%, the Capitals second best offensive line in the game.

Sabres Game

Protas returned to the lineup again the following night, as Sonny Milano was still unable to return to the lineup. The fourth line would be the only line that remained consistent throughout the entire game, as they played well right from the start of the game. [Click to enlarge]

It bears repeating, the fourth line is primarily charged with facing and neutralizing the opposing team’s top line, so any time they can post an xGF% greater than 50%, the opposing teams stars are below 50%. That’s impressive, to say the least.


Next, let’s dig a little deeper on Protas’ personal stats by first ranking his expected goals for percentage for the season. [Click to enlarge].

Protas currently has the second-best expected goals for percentage on the team. The only issue might be the fact that the player he competes with for roster spots currently has the best expected goals for percentage on the team, but that’s no reason to ride the pine. The two have worked very well together with Nic Dowd on the fourth line.


Finally, let’s look at Protas’ performance with regards to his line assignments so far this season. The next graph plots all of the Capitals line combinations from this season (minus the players that were moved at the trade deadline).[Click to enlarge].

Protas has been on seven of the Capitals top 14 line combinations so far this season. There has been only one line combination that Protas has been on (Protas-Kuznetsov-Mantha) that has an average below 50%. That’s really impressive.


It’s understandable that Protas was the easiest moveable piece this season, as it happens to many young players in the early stages of their careers. I recall a season of callups and send-downs for Dmitry Orlov, before he was able to work his way into the lineup. The daily moves were made more for salary cap management purposes, but nonetheless, the situation became comical towards the end of the season.

The difference with Protas is the fact that he is more than ready and has consistently shown he improves the team when he is in the Capitals lineup. Who sits in his place is certainly a tough call, but it needs to be made, as not all forwards are producing at the level that Protas is producing.

I think we are seeing the first signs of this in advance of the Capitals tilt with the St. Louis Blues Friday night, as it looks like Protas will remain in the starting lineup while Anthony Mantha will sits.

By Jon Sorensen


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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18 Responses to Examining The Performance And Management Of Aliaksei Protas

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good piece. I think it’s very clear Protas should make no more trips to Hershey.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Viper belongs in DC!

  3. @Puckstop31_ says:

    Great article. It’s pretty clear Protas deserves a shirt every night. For me, it’s been clear for some time. I do not think that will be though. Because PL is looking to build his resume. Can/will GMBM step in and force PL’s hand? Or is there something other than his on ice performance keeping him out or not used as much?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is it more his presence, or the lack of the old guy that he replaced?

  5. KimRB says:

    I’ve said before that he should be a good NHLer. And not just because of things that show up on the scoresheet. He does little things that NHL coaches love. We’ve had guys like him before, say Ulf Dahlen (the best grinder in team history), or Viktor Kozlov. You can have all the skill in the world, but it all comes down to working hard, and doing the little things.

    Good pick in the third round. If only we hadn’t let another third round pick, Chandler Stephenson, go for peanuts.

  6. Brant says:

    That long stick catches people off guard. It was very apparent last game.

    • KimRB says:

      Absolutely. He uses that gigantic wingspan pretty effectively

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      VERY underrated asset. He drove players in the AHL nuts with that stick.

      • racingmoose says:

        Yes, he really catches AHL players off guard with that long reach. Hopefully, bulking up his strength continues to progress. He’s a big man, but one of the concerns was his actual strength and being able to use that big body more effectively. A lot of potential exists there.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          I haven’t had any concern with overall strength since his final year in Prince Albert. The year in the KHL mandated he bulk up and get tougher and by the end of the season he was thriving. Still doesn’t lay a lot of hits, though.

          • racingmoose says:

            It still needs to be better at the pro level. That’s why I hope that he keeps progressing. The strength and stamina side of playing physically was a concern we had and he definitely improved prior to turning pro.

            • Jon Sorensen says:

              I’m not concerned about it at this point. As soon as a player is drafted by Caps, we watch most of their games (watching Suzdalev and Hofer now). Protas was fairly frail and non-aggressive in PA, but the KHL toughened him up quick. He will never be a overly physical player, it’s not in his DNA.

  7. Prevent Defense says:

    Everybody enjoying the 4-0 massacre against The Caps by The Chief and The Blues? Caps have been plain disgusting in “must win” games this season

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Was just looking at Sandin’s numbers. +5 in first two games, -7 (so far) in last three games. I’m not much for the plus-minus stat, but it’s interesting in this case. Played better teams in first two.

    • novafyre says:

      I think they have voted for the ‘tank’ option. Sabres are also down 4-0 to Flyers.

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