Photo: Peter Holgersson / Bildbyran
Editor’s Note — Throughout the season, Fedor will be posting scouting reports for Capitals prospects around the globe, bringing his thoughts on their performance as well as video evidence. First up is Jakub Vrana.
Washington Capitals 2014 first round pick Jakub Vrana plays for Linkoping of the SHL (Swedish Hockey League) and will play on the Czech Republic’s World Junior Championship team. He left a conflicting impression in the eight games I watched of him in October and early November. His skill was evident as he sometimes made veteran defensemen look foolish. However, he would go invisible for long stretches. On some occasions, it appeared that he let frustration get the best of him after missed opportunities on the offensive end and looked like a shadow of himself for the rest of the game. His first period was often his best as he sometimes looked tired in the second half of games and Linkoping’s coach Roger Melin would sometimes bench him in the third period. He clearly needs to be more aware defensively as sometimes he’s caught watching the play looking for a chance to get on the rush quickly instead of tracking his man in order to make sure there’s no scoring chance developing behind his back.
Still, his combination of speed and skill was too much for defensemen in this league. He also was always on the lookout to steal an errant pass or pickpocket a puck handler for a backbreaking goal. He’s not an overly physical player due to his smaller stature, but he also doesn’t put himself in bad position and get caught on big hits as well. If he can develop some consistency, he’ll be really hard to defend and potentially a game-changing player in the future.
Below the jump, I analyze every part of Vrana’s game with video evidence.
Keep an eye out on #13 wearing blue and white.
Vrana’s acceleration is tremendous; he takes almost no time to get that top gear. His stride is very smooth and he can change directions rapidly. Skating is one of his biggest strengths.
Vrana makes a lot of interceptions that lead to scoring chances. His positioning without the puck, especially in the offensive and neutral zones is solid and his first step, as I mentioned above, is amazing, allowing him to jump on the pucks.
Vrana is one of the most skilled prospects in his age group. When he’s on his game, the puck seems to gravitate to his stick and his elusive skating allows him to beat defensemen one-on-one on a number of occasions.
The wrist shot is an important part of Vrana’s play. He finds room to pull the trigger, and as he gets older and stronger his shot will become more and more of a threat. Right now, it’s probably not as quick as Andre Burakovsky’s, but still, defensemen have to respect Vrana’s shot.
Vrana’s crisp, precise passes allow his team to establish offensive pressure on a lot of occasions. He may not be a passing maestro like Nicklas Backstrom, but he’s not a selfish player and know how to put the pucks on sticks of his teammates. His vision is good, and he can make strong, long passes.
As I said, Vrana is able to find room for his shot and pull the trigger. He predicts the play well, and his speed allows him to beat defensemen to spots where the puck is heading.
This is something I’ve been impressed by watching Vrana. Despite playing in a top-tier professional league at the age of just 18, he’s able to protect the puck with his body really well.
Vrana’s defensive effort is inconsistent, which is a problem with many young highly drafted offensive stars. Sometimes he makes decent defensive plays, but it seems like he just waits for the play to go the other way instead of actively participating in team defense. He’s not always ready for pinches by opposing defensemen and struggles. He also struggles with proper gap control and closing down lanes.
Vrana makes high-risk plays from time to time. His attack-first mindset can occasionally get him in trouble with turnovers and giveaways.
The Czech winger is a good forechecker. He goes after the puckhandler aggressively, and it often works out for him.
Over the summer, Vrana got national attention during Caps Development Camp with this sensational shootout move. It was ridiculous.
When I saw Vrana play in the fall, he had two bad shootout attempts. He fumbled the puck on the first one. On the second, the goaltender didn’t buy his moves, making an easy stop as the forward just ran out of room.
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