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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 11 Jakub Vrana

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 11 Jakub Vrana

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 11 Jakub Vrana

From making his long-awaited NHL debut and scoring three goals for the Caps to being a healthy scratch for the Hershey Bears in the playoffs, Jakub Vrana had a very up and down 2016-17 season.

In two call-ups to Washington over the season, there were times when Vrana showed flashes of the elite skill that made him a first-round draft pick in 2014. With only six points in 21 games, however, he was sent back down to Hershey where he appeared to lose focus.

RELATED: MORE BIG-NAME CAPS MADE AN EARLY RETURN TO KETTLER

For many players with NHL aspirations, once they get that taste of the big leagues, it can be hard to go back to the AHL. It's hard to go from bright lights and chartered flights to long bus rides and small arenas. The Capitals are hoping he will be focused for the start of camp because while the team could previously afford to bring him along slowly, they are now at a point where they need him to be NHL ready.

Washington lost both Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams in the offseason, two top-six forwards who scored a combined 48 goals last season. That is a lot of production the team will need to make up. Having Vrana, a sniper forward, ready for a full NHL season should help and there is an opening for him on the right side of the second or third line. But the Caps are not simply going to give him a spot, especially not in the top-six. He is going to have to earn it and there are still aspects of his game he needs to work on.

“He definitely has NHL speed, NHL shot [and] NHL goal-scoring ability," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan told reporters in May. "We still project him as a top-six guy, but he’s going to have to learn to play the complete game."

Vrana is a goal-scorer and power play specialist, but he needs work in the defensive zone and he needs to learn how to position himself away from the puck. The effort is there, but there were definitely times last season where he seemed lost without the puck. He will have to improve and it will have to happen fast for both the team and the player's sake.

If Vrana is not among the best forwards in camp or he shows he still needs time to improve aspects of his game, what will the Caps do with him? Previously they would just send him back to the AHL, but given the way in which he handled his demotion to Hershey last year, is that even an option now? Washington may not have enough forward depth to wait another year, or even half a season for Vrana to continue developing. It may be now or never for their 2014 first-round pick.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller

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Game 9: Capitals vs. Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 9: Capitals vs. Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals vs. Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals vs. Panthers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals (4-3-1) take on the Panthers (2-4-0) Saturday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Panthers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:30 p.m. — Capitals vs. Panthers
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps OverTime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

Here are the projected lines:

Forwards
Tom Wilson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches
Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness, Tyler Graovac (injured), Matt Niskanen (LTIR)

CAPITALS-PANTHERS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Andre Burakovsky responds to demotion with his first goal of the season

Andre Burakovsky responds to demotion with his first goal of the season

Andre Burakovsky needed a spark. In seven games playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, Burakovsky had only two assists to show for his efforts.

In order to spark the young winger, Barry Trotz moved Andre Burakovsky to the third line. It looks like that was a good move.

In his first game on the third line on Friday, Burakovsky scored his first goal of the season as he wristed a blistering shot past Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek. Watch it in the player above.

The biggest issue for Burakovsky this season was waiting too long to get his shot off. Trotz's advice to him was, "Don't think too much." Burakovsky took those words to heart.

After taking the pass from Orlov, Burakovsky had room to work. Rather than waiting for the Red Wings to close the gap while aiming for the perfect shot, however, Burakovsky turned and immediately snapped the shot away.

It was a play he was not making in the first seven games. Will this goal spark the breakout season we have all been waiting for?