For the second time this season, Barry Trotz has benched talented rookie Jakub Vrana for inconsistent play. Vrana has 10 goals in 47 games and is the third best possession forward on the team (who’s played more than 40 games), but he’s been a healthy scratch during the last two contests – a 5-3 win against Philadelphia and a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Vrana also previously sat November 16 against the Colorado Avalanche for being in what Trotz termed, “participation mode.”
After practice on Saturday, Trotz said that “there’s a good chance” Vrana will return to the lineup Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights. During the team’s skate, Vrana suited up on the Capitals’ third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly. Chandler Stephenson appeared to be the extra forward per NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.
Based on today's practice, looks like Vrana will be back in for Caps tomorrow vs. Vegas. Stephenson appears to be extra forward rotating in on 4th line
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) February 3, 2018
Trotz explained to reporters that he scratched Vrana to remind him that his spot in the lineup was not guaranteed.
“I think it’s been a pretty good learning moment for him,” Trotz said. “He’s gone a little bit dry and he’s forgotten that he has to compete for his ice time.
“With no production, the plan was to get him in against the Penguins the other night,” Trotz continued. “But guys like Stephenson gets a couple goals, Smith-Pelly got a goal, Chiasson fighting for his teammates and stuff like that… it’s a good teaching moment for any young player, not only Jake, but anybody in the locker room is that ice time: you’ve got to earn it and you’re in a competition with your teammates. Even though you’re trying to help your teammates, you’re in competition for your ice time and you’re in a competition with them. I think they just forgot about that. As a young player, they tend to think things are great — I’ve got so many goals and I’m a young prospect and all that — and you get away from what makes you really good.”
Trotz also wanted Vrana to shift his focus back to utilizing his strengths so that he can be more consistent and reach another level in his game.
“What makes you really good is you use your assets,” Trotz said. “He’s got great speed. His speed creates offense. His speed creates some pressure on the opposition that turns into offense. His speed allows him to come back into coverage and tracking down defenders. He’s got to use his assets really well. He’s got a really good skillset and if he does that he’ll jump in. Right now he’s in competition because guys aren’t going to allow him to take his ice time so he’s got to do the same to them.”
The Capitals will play the Golden Knights at 12:30 pm on Super Bowl Sunday. The game marks the return of Nate Schmidt to DC.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 3, 2018
Headline photo via @Capitals
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