Wednesday night, the Hershey Bears’ playoff run ended after losing to the Providence Bruins 4-2 in Game Seven. After the game, Bears coach Troy Mann was asked to reflect on Jakub Vrana’s season.
His words were harsh.
“I mean, I think, you know, I thought he was okay. I thought he was average. He has some spurts there, you could see the speed there. But, you know, it was a tough year for him at this level for whatever reason. He obviously got injured there. I was going to go back to the same lineup, quite frankly, tonight. But the doctors gave him his clearance yesterday. I had a conversation with him this morning. I felt it was kind of a two-fold. He hadn’t been on the scoresheet yet in these playoffs. Obviously, we’re still driving to develop here as much as we are winning. He is a first round pick so I put him in and maybe het gets a goal or sets up something. I thought he had his moments tonight, but when it comes to Jakub Vrana, I’m gonna have to say it’s been a tough year here for him. He was up and down quite a bit. Just inconsistent play. Hopefully he can correct as he moves forward. Maybe it’s in Washington, maybe it’s back here. I’m not sure. He’s the one that’s going to answer that in terms of his play.”
Vrana had no points and three shots in seven games during the Bears’ playoff run.
Coming into the 2016-17 season, the 13th overall pick from the 2014 Draft was supposed to challenge for a roster spot in Washington. Instead the Capitals’ forward depth and a surprise exemplary performance from Zach Sanford during the preseason pushed Vrana to the minors.
Five games into his NHL career, Vrana scored his first goal in the best league in the world.
“I mean it’s the greatest feeling, you know?” Vrana said then. “Two games before, I had so many shots on net. It just didn’t go in. I’m so happy this one go in.”
The Czech forward remained a constant in Washington’s lineup through a December 27 game against the New York Islanders. After Vrana went five games without a point, head coach Barry Trotz put the forward in his dog house and had this to say.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the player,” Trotz said. “We’re not in a development league, we’re in a winning league.”
Vrana, who did not look out of place at the NHL level, would be demoted several days later. Vrana would never return to his earlier form and was seemingly in a funk for the rest of the season.
Two months later after scoring four goals in 15 AHL games, Vrana was called up to the Capitals once again. At a February 17 practice, Vrana was confused by his promotion after being recently benched by Troy Mann.
“I don’t know where my game is right now,” Vrana said. “I get scratched last week [in Hershey] and now I’m in Washington.”
A week later, Vrana would finally suit up with the Caps, tallying two goals and three points in nine games as a fill-in for Andre Burakovsky. Once the Burracuda returned, Vrana was sent back to the minors and finished the season with Hershey. In the postseason, Vrana played in only 7 of the team’s 12 games. In the first round, the forward was scratched and criticized by Troy Mann in the media.
— Ross Lippman (@Ross_Lippy) April 30, 2017
With forward TJ Oshie unlikely to return to Washington due to salary cap constraints, Vrana seemed likely graduate to Washington as a full time player next season.
Now, according to Mann, that’s a “maybe.”
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.
Headline photo: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.