After a rough performance against the Dallas Stars on Saturday, Jakub Vrana found himself moved from the top line to the fourth for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
There was a time in his career in which Vrana would not have handled such a move very well, but on Monday a motivated Vrana played like he had been shot out of a cannon and scored less than three minutes into the game.
“That says a lot to me about him as a young player maturing,” Reirden said after the game. “That was a strong statement by him.”
Vrana’s reaction to getting bumped to the fourth line shows just how much he has matured as a player since being drafted in 2014.
As a first round draft pick, Vrana hit a wall while playing with the Hershey Bears. He had the talent to be an NHL player, but could not crack the Caps’ loaded lineup. Frustration over being stuck in the AHL translated into poor play leading to instances in which then head coach Troy Mann would scratch Vrana from the lineup altogether.
Vrana has demonstrated he has the talent to be a top-six talent in the NHL, but with multiple turnovers and an uneven performance on Saturday against the Stars, Vrana was moved down to the fourth line.
Unlike how he responded to being stuck in the AHL, the move from the top line to the bottom motivated him to work harder.
“If you have a game like I had, you have to forget it right away,” Vrana said Tuesday after an optional skate for the team. “I know it's really hard for some players. Obviously you think about it, right? It's not easy to forget. But you have to find a way back your confidence [sic]. The best way to find it is on a training pitch. I just tried to work hard.”
With the way he played, it is likely Vrana won’t be stuck in the bottom-six for very long.
The maturity of Vrana’s mentality and the skill he continues to show have not been lost on Reirden.
“I talked to him earlier [Monday] and I wasn't in the least bit concerned about his game,” Reirden said. “Showed him some video earlier and just explained -- again for me communication with players is really important and letting them know why you had certain ideas on what you're going to do and explaining to them what's expected. That's today's player. Good or bad, you have to tell them ok you're going from the first line to not the first line. How are you going to react?”
Vrana found instant chemistry Monday playing alongside his former Hershey teammate Travis Boyd. Considering how well the Vrana, Boyd, Devante Smith-Pelly line looked on Monday, it would not be surprising to see it again for Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But as good as it looked, that fourth line is not likely to remain intact for long. With four goals and seven points on the season, Vrana continues to show off his top-six skill. Now he also has the maturity he needs to consistently perform at the NHL level.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- D-D-Defense: Caps stepped defensively against Edmonton
- A Needed Win: Why the Caps beat the Oilers
- A career night: Travis Boyd records two assists in first game back
- Catching Reirden's eye: Jaskin, Bowey taking advantage of opportunities