Hershey Bears goalie Vitek Vanecek was brilliant in the AHL All-Star Challenge, earning MVP honors for the event on Monday. In his second consecutive all-star appearance, Vanecek played in parts of four games allowing only two goals.
The AHL All-Star Challenge is similar to the NHL All-Star Game in that it is a 3-on-3 format with divisions playing as a team. Unlike the NHL All-Star Game, however, each division plays every other in a round-robin style tournament capped off by a championship game between the two top teams.
The Atlantic Division, which Hershey plays in, lost its first game, but won the next two to reach the championship. It then defeated the Central Division 3-1 to win the event.
Vanecek also shared the CCM Top Goaltender award for the skills competition the night before. He split it with two other goalies, however, which makes it largely just a participation trophy, but clearly Vanecek was impressive throughout the all-star festivities.
In his last 13 games with the Bears, Vanecek is 9-4-0 with a 2.26 GAA and .919 save percentage.
As this is the follow-up question for all things Capitals goaltending these days, let's get this out of the way: No, I don't think it would be smart to trade away Braden Holtby and call up Vanecek to be the team's backup.
Vanecek has no NHL experience. He is doing exactly what he should be doing in the AHL, but I would still put his ceiling as a high-end AHL starter, low-end NHL backup.
Other prospect notes
- Vanecek is not the only goalie with the hot hand right now. Pheonix Copley has gone 9-1-0 in the Bears' latest hot streak with a 2.15 GAA and .921 save percentage. And no, I would not consider him a better option than Holtby as a playoff backup either.
- Hershey is 19-5-0-0 in its last 24 games. During that span, Brian Pinho and Garret Pilon both have 10 goals each while Philippe Maillet has 21 points.
- Aliaksei Protas has 22 goals and 35 assists in 42 games this season. His 57 points are good for 10th in the WHL. One stat that is being overlooked, however, is PIM. Protas has two. In 42 games, he has been called for only one minor penalty, a trip on Jan. 18. Among the other nine players in the top ten, none of them have fewer than 12 PIM. That could mean one of two things. Either Protas gives zero effort when he loses the puck or he plays a very clean game. Considering he was not considered to be a top offensive player when Washington selected him in the draft, I doubt he would have been a third-round draft pick if he was taking defensive shifts off. This is an impressive stat and one that should be music to the ears of Caps fans considering the trouble the team has with staying out of the penalty box.
- Connor McMichael has scored five hat tricks this season. In Patrick Kane's lone season with the London Nights, he scored seven.
- Tobias Geisser may have returned to Europe, but he believes the NHL dream is still alive. "I keep trying to get better," he said to SRF, as translated by Google Translate. "What happens after this season is completely open." Geisser is currently playing in Switzerland after he was loaned by the Caps to EV Zug.
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