With the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, the Caps chose winger Jakub Vrana, a native of the Czech Republic. Vrana has ben playing hockey in Sweden since he was 15, moving there and living on his own so he could improve his game. He spent some of the 2013-14 season (24 games) playing for Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League.
I just met Vrana Friday night, and I’ve never seen him play hockey. With that in mind, here’s what some of the hockey and scouting world has to say about Vrana.
* The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau rated Vrana the fourth best European skater in the 2014 draft, behind Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander and Kevin Fiala. Of that threesome, only Kapanen was available when the Caps chose at No. 13.
* TSN ranked Vrana No. 19 overall, with this assessment from Scouting Director Craig Button: “Very good offensive mind and is hungry from circles down in offensive zone. Good shot and is a player you have to respect because he can score or make a play. Ability to be dangerous quickly. One shot and score capability.”
* McKeen’s ranked Vrana No. 21 and had this to say about him: Exploded in his third consecutive World U18 Championships leading the tournament in goal scoring (7-8-2-10) en route to Team Czech’s first ever silver medal performance .. struggled at times this year with Linkoping (SHL) to find sufficient ice time for development however he was a point a game player (24-14-11-25) for his Linkoping Junior team .. fast and powerful skater; cross-overs generate blinding speed which helps provide increasing acceleration with each step .. difficult to derail once he gets the edge to the outside as he can sustain his diagonal speed .. fast and opportunistic Vrana is a handful in 1 on 1 situations and is blessed with superb individual skills and strong in-tight puck control abilities .. boasts dynamic lateral agility executing high-skilled plays at top speed not unlike Nail Yakupov .. tries to go solo and do it all himself – overlooking passing opportunities, bull-headed in his resolve to create a shooting lane .. self-centered player who only uses his teammates when he wants or has to .. stops skating once he gets into spots that he thinks he should get the puck .. bad defensive work habits as well as he is not an enthusiastic back checker .. Vrana needs to work on rounding out his entire game to become a better pro prospect.
From McKeen’s 2013 NHL Draft Guide (May 2013) - Played in the 2011-12 U18 World Championships as a double under-ager and finished third in tournament scoring (6-4-4-8) .. the youngest player to participate in the U20 tournament this season for the Czech Republic .. tremendously talented offensive player who owns extraordinary offensive awareness.. always in the right place at the right time .. vision is elite as he finds an open man with precise passes that slice through.
* The Hockey News ranked Vrana 19th overall. Here’s how their report read:
It says a lot about a young man’s drive that he would leave his home in the Czech Republic to play in Sweden at 15, living by himself in an apartment complex with older teammates. That’s what Vrana did and, other than missing the soup that is a Czech cuisine staple, he has forged a path with Linkoping.
Scouts expected him to play more with the men’s team this year, but the speedy sniper spent most of his time in junior. When he did play up, he didn’t get much ice time, but scouts could see he was working hard. A special mid-season conditioning stint focused on power skating and boosted Vrana in time for the world under-18s. “He got his confidence back, so he was prepared,” said one scout. “He made good timing for his last tournament. He was the best scorer there.”
Vrana, who also played for the Czechs at the WJC, led the under-18s with eight goals in 10 games, using his speed and quick shot to drive opposing goaltenders crazy.
* ISS also ranked Vrana at No. 21. This is what they had to say about him:
Skill: IQ on the puck is high-end. Big shot and shows the ability to score in bunches.
Scouting Report: Vrana was an offensive juggernaut for Czech Republic and probably the only top gun to play to expectations and beyond from his team. Intimidating offensive skill-set and weapons, shot is lethal, gets pucks through traffic with ease and release is lightning quick to catch goalies looking. Battles well to get himself into position, not a perimeter player although remains a threat in all areas due to his shot. Patience, composure when pressured on the puck is excellent, sorts out his options and outwaits the opposition. Seems to always elevate his game to a higher level when competing for his country, wants to be the game-breaker. Showed flashes of his talent with Linkoping in the SHL this season.
NHL Potential: Top 6 winger with a heavy shot and good skill-set. PP potential with game-breaking ability on the puck:
Style Compares To: Alex Steen
* Finally, Red Line Report had Vrana ranked at No. 28 overall. Here’s what they had to say:
Draft wild-card had up-and-down season, finishing on strong note at World U18s which was very important for his sagging stock. Highly talented Czech has been playing in Sweden the past 2+ seasons to enhance his development. Outstanding skater with a smooth stride and strong acceleration. Shows great short area burst. Creative dynamo is a flashy, puck possession type. Loves to draw defenders to him before dishing imaginative set-ups. Very agile and beats defenders 1-on-1 off the rush routinely with a variety of sick moves he can make at top speed. A natural sniper with soft, quick hands – instinctive in the offensive zone with a very accurate shot and lightning fast release. But goes long stretches where he looks disinterested and lackadaisical – compete level is highly suspect with poor effort level away from the puck. Defensive zone positioning and coverage is lacking.
Projection: Inconsistent 2nd line scorer and PP specialist.
Style compares to: Patrik Elias, minus the commitment