Vitek Vanecek made his childhood dream come true after making his first NHL start on January 15 and defeating the Buffalo Sabres. Vanecek toiled in the minor leagues for five years before finally getting the call with the Capitals.
With starter Ilya Samsonov out due to COVID-19, Vanecek kept starting – and kept winning.
On Tuesday, the NHL named Vanecek the NHL’s Rookie of the Month. Peter Laviolette announced it to Vanecek and the rest of the team as Capitals practice began at noon on Tuesday.
Capitals are in a group huddle on the ice. Laviolette just announced to the group that Vitek Vanecek was named the league's Rookie of the Month. Big cheers and pats all around.
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) February 2, 2021
Peter Laviolette announced it to the team.
I imagine there will be some kind of official announcement soon. https://t.co/3H8U9iTnxn
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) February 2, 2021
According to Mike Vogel, Vanecek is the eighth Cap ever to earn the honor, and one of three current Caps to do so (Ovechkin twice, Backstrom).
#Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek is NHL's Rookie of Month for Jan. He is eighth Cap ever to earn the honor, and one of three current Caps to do so (Ovechkin twice, Backstrom). Vanecek is first to do so since Neuvirth in Oct. '10, and fourth goalie (Mason 12/84, Carey 3/95, Neuvirth).
— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) February 2, 2021
The NHL officially announced the news at 1 PM.
Goaltender Vitek Vanecek of the @Capitals and MedStar Washington Hospital Center emergency room RN Mary “Dani” Dell’Isola named @NHL’s “Rookies of the Month” for January. https://t.co/khzIe1KUeE pic.twitter.com/Ga6WJ9L1E3
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 2, 2021
VITEK. VANECEK. ROOKIE. OF. THE. MONTH. 😤
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 2, 2021
Vanecek started seven games in January and did not lose once in regulation, posting a 5-0-2 record. Vanecek became the ninth goaltender in NHL history (since 1967-68) to go unbeaten in regulation to start the first seven games of their career.
Vanecek is one of two rookie goaltenders in franchise history to remain unbeaten in regulation in his first seven career games, joining Jim Carey (6-0-0-1 in 1994-95), one of nine goaltenders to accomplish this feat since 1967-68.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) January 31, 2021
Vanecek’s five wins were tied for the most among all goaltenders in the NHL during the month. He also posted a 2.78 goals against average and a .918 save percentage during that time.
According to NHL PR, Vanecek also became the fifth different Caps’ rookie goaltender to make 45-plus saves in a regular-season game and first in nearly 39 years on January 24 against the Sabres.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 25, 2021
Unexpected bounce, but Vanecek has it covered. pic.twitter.com/f44UHT5aQP
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 31, 2021
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 16, 2021
Fellow Capitals prospect Alex Alexeyev was named KHL Rookie of the Month on Tuesday as well.
More from the NHL:
NEW YORK (Feb. 2, 2021) – Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek and MedStar Washington Hospital Center emergency room RN Mary “Dani” Dell’Isola have been named the NHL’s “Rookies of the Month” for January.
Throughout the 2020-21 season the NHL is celebrating the remarkable efforts of the off-ice stars who make it possible for us to play our games amid a pandemic by honoring frontline healthcare heroes from the regions represented by the League’s weekly and monthly “Stars.”
Dell’Isola began her nursing career as a new graduate in February 2020, right at the onset of the pandemic. Along with caring for patients and honing her nursing skills, Dell’Isola quickly learned how to remain safe during an unprecedented healthcare crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic almost immediately changed her outlook and perspective, providing greater awareness about the importance of frontline workers overall and nurses in particular. Dell’Isola, who regularly attends Capitals games, says that she is looking forward to the day when she can return to Capital One Arena. In the meantime, she is proud that her nursing career has helped those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vanecek went 5-0-2 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in seven January appearances to edge New Jersey Devils defenseman Ty Smith (2-6—8 in 9 GP), Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (2-6—8 in 10 GP), Vancouver Canucks left wing Nils Hoglander (3-3—6 in 11 GP) and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (3-1-2, 1.97 GAA, .937 SV%) for “Rookie of the Month” honors.
Vanecek, who was selected by Washington in the second round (39th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, became the 11th goaltender in League history to begin his career with a point streak of at least seven games – and the first to accomplish the feat since Mike Condon in 2015‑16 (6-0-2 w/ MTL). The 25-year-old Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic, native – who was thrust into duty following the absences of Ilya Samsonov and Henrik Lundqvist – is the first Capitals goaltender to be named a “Rookie of the Month” since fellow Czech Michal Neuvirth in October 2010.
Screenshot courtesy of NBC Sports Washington
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