Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils was a first for Jakub Vrana. It was the first time he was a healthy scratch in the NHL.
Vrana said all the right things after Thursday's morning skate when it was clear he would not be in the lineup, but it looked as if a return to Hershey was imminent. With the Bears off on Thursday, the move could have been a way to give Vrana an extra day of practice before returning him to the AHL for Hershey’s game on Friday.
And yet, on Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Vrana was the first skater on the ice for practice. When the team went through line rushes, Vrana still looked like the odd man out and in fact stayed on the ice after practice for extra drills, something only players who will be out of the lineup typically do.
After Friday’s practice, all indications are that Vrana will remain with the Caps, but remain a healthy scratch for Saturday’s rematch with the New Jersey Devils.
Why is that surprising? Coaches always stress the importance young players playing. The best way to develop young players is to get them ice time whether it be in the NHL or AHL. Considered one of the team’s top prospects, the development of the 20-year-old Vrana is of the utmost importance to the franchise.
Before Thursday’s game, there appeared to be two options for how to handle Vrana: Play him in Washington or play him in Hershey.
Instead, Trotz appears to be going with option C, keep Vrana in Washington but out of the lineup.
When asked if there had been any change in plan for how he wanted to handle Vrana, Trotz simply said, “No, no change.”
So for now, Vrana will remain out of the lineup, but Trotz will have to make a decision regarding the young winger soon. Has he shown enough to remain in the NHL and get consistent playing time with Washington or does he need more time in the AHL to develop?
MORE CAPITALS: Another Kuznetsov turnover costs Caps