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Prospect report: Progress for Jakub Vrana

Prospect report: Progress for Jakub Vrana

Hershey update: 3-2-2-0, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-0-0-0

The Hershey Bears enjoyed a successful week as the team won both of its games. With 10 goals in two games, several players had big weeks offensively. Christian Thomas had two goals, Riley Barber and Madison Bowey each had a goal and an assist, and Nathan Walker and Chandler Stephenson both had two assists.

But no one stood out more than Jakub Vrana.

Vrana scored three goals and two assists in the team’s two games. More important than how much he scored, however, is how he scored.

Check out the highlights from Hershey’s two wins:

Notice Vrana's positioning. In the first game, he joined a three-on-two rush on the far side. As the play went further down the ice, Vrana pinched further in until he was just outside the top of the crease. That put him in the perfect position to score after receiving the fantastic pass from Stephenson.

In the second game, Vrana sees Travis Boyd make a steal in the offensive zone off the forecheck and immediately heads to the front of the net. His quick reaction puts him in behind the defense allowing him to finish the play with the goal. Later in the game, Vrana sets up Paul Carey for an easy tap-in goal with a pass that looks a lot like the one Alex Ovechkin made to set up Marcus Johansson in Calgary.

That's an NHL play.

Vrana showed in the preseason that he has some things to work on before he can make the jump to the NHL. No one can deny his skill level, but he needed to become a smarter player. Vrana showed great positioning in these two games and the pass to set up Carey was sublime. He now leads the Bears in both goals (5) and points (7). In terms of his NHL development, this was a very promising week.

With all the offense, the performance of goalie Vitek Vanecek was overshadowed, but he played very well in his start Sunday. The young netminder saved 22 of the 24 shots he faced against Lehigh Valley including two incredible saves (see in the video above).

There was a scary moment for Travis Boyd on Sunday as he took a very dangerous hit from Sam Morin that sent him head first into the boards. Luckily, Boyd was unhurt and got back to his feet immediately after. Boyd tallied four assists over the week and now leads Hershey with six.

One player who did not have a big week offensively was Stanislav Galiev. Galiev did not record a shot on goal or a point in Saturday’s game and was a healthy scratch Sunday.

Scratching Vrana last week seems to have sparked him, perhaps it will have the same effect on Galiev.


Other prospect notes:

Last week, it was announced that Connor Hobbs was selected to represent Team WHL in the CIBC Canada Russia Series. Facing him will be another Caps prospect. Defenseman Dmitriy Zaitsev will play for Team Russia as announced on Wednesday.

The Canada Russia Series is an annual tournament in which Russian junior players play teams composed of players from each of the three junior leagues of the Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL and QMJHL).

College hockey saw the two best teams in the nation square off in a two-game series over the week as No. 1 North Dakota faced No. 2 Minnesota Duluth. Unfortunately for Capitals prospect Shane Gersich, his Fighting Hawks were on the losing end of both games. Gersich, however, played well in the first game with a goal and an assist. He now has 10 points through seven games this season.

Adam Carlson earned his first professional win on Friday, making 31 saves against Florida to lead South Carolina to the 2-1 victory. The rookie netminder struggled in his next start on Tuesday, however, allowing four goals in just 12 shots before getting pulled.

In three games with the Stingrays this season, Carlson has managed a 2.92 goals-against average with a .902 save percentage.


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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”