Washington Capitals forward Jakub Vrana is 24 and in a contract year. And he’s off to another strong start.
After starting the 2019-20 season with goals in consecutive games, the Czech winger did it again this season.
On Thursday during the season opener, Vrana scored the game-winning goal after some aggressive backchecking by Tom Wilson in the third period. Vrana forced a turnover and rifled a quick shot near the crease past Carter Hutton glove side.
The very next night, Vrana scored again on a breakaway, shooting, and scoring while in stride.
Vrana was sprung by a mindblowing curl pass by Wilson at the blue line that hit his linemate ahead of the D.
That pass thooo @tom_wilso 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BPmTxcxgmz
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 16, 2021
“Great job by Tom there,” Vrana said during the second intermission. “He won the battle. He saw me in the middle coming with speed. I tried to elevate as quickly as I could.”
NBC Sports Washington analyst, Craig Laughlin, praised the forward, whom he fondly nicknamed Jake The Snake years ago, and predicted superstardom in his future.
Craig Laughlin on Jakub Vrana: "He's gonna be a superstar"
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) January 16, 2021
And Laughlin’s hunch should be trusted. Locker was a goal-scorer in the NHL; he scored 30 goals during the 1985-86 season. Vrana, a former first-round pick, has the upper-echelon speed and a sneaky hard shot that would make him a top-line player on most other teams. It’s his consistency during his time in the AHL and the NHL that has always befallen him.
Take Jake’s career year last season for example. V scored 14 goals in his first 29 games, including his first career hat trick. During the final 40, Vrana scored only 11 times including a goalless postseason (8 games) for the second consecutive year.
“Obviously, it wasn’t great,” Vrana said during training camp. “Nothing goes really well for us in the (2020) playoffs. Sometimes there is ups and downs in your career. You gotta find a way – your mind’s gotta go the right way. You’re going forwards, that’s where you’re going. You’re not going backwards. You can’t look what happened. You just gonna take the most positive you can and just learn from it. If it didn’t work out, going forward you just work on those things. You work on those details and coming into the next season, you try to do them better.”
Peter Laviolette’s new system, along with another year of maturation, could be the vehicle that takes Jake to the next level.
“It’s a high tempo system. I like it,” Vrana said. “It’s a little skating. I don’t mind that. Everything goes fast and that’s how we want to play.”
While Alex Ovechkin’s expiring contract gets most of the attention, Vrana’s new deal could be even trickier to figure out with a static salary cap. Vrana is finishing a two-year, $6.7 million bridge deal and has two more years left before unrestricted free agency, meaning this summer is the time to lock V in a long-term contract before he potentially prices himself out of DC.
“We have everything on our team,” Vrana said Friday.
The only thing that they may be missing is perfect-fitting headphones
Screenshot courtesy of NBC Sports Washington
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