The Washington Capitals announced on Sunday afternoon that they assigned forward Aliaksei Protas to the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
With Protas’s production waning — he had five shots and one assist in the last eight games — and Michal Kempny’s full $2.5 million cap hit back on the books, the Capitals, who are only $225k under the cap, decided to send the 20-year-old center back to the AHL despite needing an extra pivot due to an illness preventing Nicklas Backstrom from playing against the Devils.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 2, 2022
Protas played 22 games during his first stint in the NHL, recording two goals and six total points. He even spent some time on the team’s top line next to Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and the top power-play unit as the roster was ravaged by injury and COVID-related issues.
Laviolette hedged that Protas and some of the other prospects could be back later in the year when rosters are expanded.
“We have to count on these guys,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said to the media about the team’s prospects after practice on Saturday. “We have to keep everybody playing, keep their spirits right, keep them in good shape. Guys are making cases, too. Sometimes it may not have an immediate impact but it might be something that we see now because they’ve gotten opportunity. A lot of players to get through this season and my experience is in long playoff runs you need a lot of players to get through that as well.”
The 20-year-old Belorussian forward played an average of 12:25 ice time per game while with the big club. He scored his first NHL goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in late November, after his shot deflected off Tony DeAngelo and in.
“There’s been a lot of positives to come out of this,” Laviolette continued. “No matter what happens I don’t think anybody should look at it as a negative or think about it as a negative. We’ve gotten a lot of great contributions. At the end of the day, we’re going to be able to keep it to (a) 23(-man roster) and a taxi squad.”
During the Capitals-Devils game, Joe Beninati suggested that the demotion could be “a paper move.” The Capitals’ next game is Friday against the St. Louis Blues.
More from the Capitals:
Capitals Re-assign Aliaksei Protas to Hershey
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-assigned center Aliaksei Protas to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL), senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.
Protas, 20, made his NHL debut on Nov. 1, 2021, against the Tampa Bay Lightning and recorded six points (2g, 4a) in 22 games with the Capitals this season. In addition, the 6’6″, 225-pound center has five points (1g, 4a) in eight games with the Bears this season.
The Vitebsk, Belarus, native recorded 18 points (10g, 8a) in 58 regular season games with Dinamo Minsk during the 2020-21 season. Protas tied for fifth on the team in goals and tied for eighth in points, despite ranking 15th in time on ice per game (12:52) among Dinamo Minsk skaters with at least 30 games played. Protas was re-assigned to Hershey on March 18 and made his AHL debut on March 31. He recorded seven points (2g, 5a) in 16 games with Hershey. Additionally, Protas represented Belarus at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, recording two assists in six games.
Protas spent the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League (WHL), where he recorded a combined 120 points (42g, 78a) in 119 games.
Protas finished the 2019-20 season with 80 points (31g, 49a) in 58 games and ranked ninth in the WHL in points. He became the third European player in Prince Albert’s history to record 80 points, joining Leon Draisaitl (2013-14: 105 points) and Milan Kraft (1998-99: 86 points).
Protas led Prince Albert in goals, assists, points, plus/minus (37) and game-winning goals (7) in 2019-20, while incurring eight penalty minutes, the fewest among the league’s top-50 scorers. Protas was selected to the WHL’s Eastern Conference First All-Star Team and was named the WHL Eastern Conference Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year.
The Capitals selected Protas with their third-round pick, 91st overall, in the 2019 NHL Draft.
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