Jakub Vrana will sit out Thursday’s game in Colorado as a healthy scratch, Coach Barry Trotz told reporters after the morning skate.
It’ll mark the first game this season Vrana has missed, but the move isn’t all that surprising given the 21-year-old winger’s recent struggles. Vrana has just one point in the last seven games—and it came on an empty net goal vs. the Penguins.
“He’s a good young player and I think he’s going to have a really good career,” Trotz said. “[But] just like all young players, there’s a difference between being involved and just participating.”
“Right now,” Trotz added, “I feel like as a young player—and it’s a grind in this league—that he’s in that participation mode rather than involvement mode.”
Vrana made the 23-man roster out of camp and put up some numbers out of the gate while skating on Alex Ovechkin’s line, amassing two goals and three assists in the first six games. Since that strong start, however, the winger has gone a bit dry as he’s bounced around the lineup. Over the last 13 contests, in fact, he’s got only two goals and no assists, despite also being deployed on the second unit power play.
“We’re going to talk,” Trotz said. “I have full confidence that he’s getting the message that it’s important to be there every night in terms of involvement. That’s where his production will come about. You have to earn your ice time, and this is a teaching moment for him.”
With Vrana out against the Avalanche, Trotz said it’s possible that Brett Connolly will be promoted to the third line with Lars Eller and Tom Wilson. Trotz, however, also hinted that he “might throw the lines all in flux today just to catch everybody’s attention.”
The big question now, though, is whether Trotz has Vrana’s attention.
“For any young player, sometimes the hardest thing in this league—once you make it—is staying in it,” Trotz said. “And I think he felt a little comfortable. So he’s going to see how the thin air in Colorado is going to affect his [post morning skate] work out today.”