Washington Capitals prospect Aliaksei Protas had a busy year of hockey and believes it will be a very good experience for him moving forward in his career.
The 20-year-old, six-foot-six-inch, 214-pound centerman played a full KHL season plus playoffs with Dinamo Minsk, 16 games with the Hershey Bears in the AHL, a World Championship appearance with Belarus in May, and Olympic Qualifying with Belarus in August.
Protas: the tallest guy at Rookie Camp pic.twitter.com/Y9EXPH9Kvt
— elizabeth (@of_elk) September 21, 2021
Protas reflected on his time with Dinamo where he recorded 18 points in 58 regular-season games and tallied four points in five playoff games.
“It was a pretty good experience,” Protas said. “I played against really good guys, really good hockey players, really good teams, and it was a pretty nice experience to me. We played in playoffs so it was pretty good. I wasn’t the youngest guy, but I still picked up the pucks after practice so everything stayed the same. It’s always hard to play against men in the battles. Some guys really like heavier, stronger so it was great experience for me to feel it. It’s kind of a faster game there, bigger rink, but still, speed kinda the same. The guys there are more experienced so I tried to learn from my teammates, older guys so that was a good experience.”
The 20-year-old scored 10 goals overall and started the season scoring four goals in his first 14 games.
Once Dinamo was eliminated in the KHL playoffs, Protas returned to North America and played 16 games for Hershey, where he recorded seven points.
“It was totally different game for me,” Protas said. “I needed to get used to it. So last games was way better but first games I kind of like wasn’t that good. Because I needed to get used to it, the speed, small ice. And the guys are really fast and strong there so you have to be ready every second to play in every battle, be dialed in every second. I live the dream to make the [Capitals] for sure like everybody does, but if it’s not going to happen I will stay in Hershey (for next season).”
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) April 11, 2021
Protas wasn’t done with hockey once the Bears wrapped up as he went on to play nine total games for Belarus in two separate, senior international tournaments.
“When I went to World Championship after my season in Hershey was done, I felt that it [his time in the AHL] really helped me, the battles, I felt way better on the ice against men,” Protas said of his first senior tournament experience.
Only a few weeks ago, Protas would again suit up for the Belarus senior team in Olympic Qualifying.
“We were so upset we lost,” Protas said. “We wanted to get there but that happened and we gotta go through that, keep working focused on our seasons.”
Protas will be another prospect to watch at Capitals Training Camp this week.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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