What’s the best way to follow up a career-best three-point night? How about a breakaway goal to open up the scoring in what came to be another win for the Washington Capitals?
It was another night, another opportunity to show off his speed for Jakub Vrana, who is in the midst of a career-best season, highlighted by his two-goal, three-point performance against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
In the Capitals 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the 22-year-old Vrana opened up the scoring with a breakaway goal after being hit perfectly in stride by T.J. Oshie.
The goal gave Vrana 15 on the season, which ranks second on the Capitals behind only Alexander Ovechkin - who leads the NHL with 32 goals.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Vrana, especially under Barry Trotz. The young forward often found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch. Vrana scored 27 points in 73 games last season while averaging 12:30 of ice-time per game.
Now skating on the second line mostly with Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom, Vrana is showing the offensive potential that the Capitals hoped he'd possess when they drafted him 13th overall in the 2014 draft.
Speed is the name of his game and his teammates recognize that in Vrana. “He keeps maturing, keeps getting more and more confidence, which is good for us,” Oshie told The Washington Post after the Flyers' game. “You can see what he can do with his legs and somehow his hands move just as fast.”
Playing on the same team as Ovechkin, Vrana will never be the best goal-scorer on the team, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t rank up there with the rest of the league.
Among all forwards who have played at least 500 minutes at 5v5, only four players have scored at a better rate than Vrana.
Vrana is making the most of his opportunities, as he ranks 34th in scoring chances for, and 83rd in high-danger chances among the same group of forwards. Those numbers should mean it shouldn’t be a surprise he ranks in the top 20 in shooting percentage (15th, 17.72% at 5v5).
At his current pace, Vrana could push the 30-goal mark this season.
During the Ovechkin era in D.C., only five players that weren’t The Great Eight has topped that mark. The last to do it was Oshie, two seasons ago. Mike Green was the youngest, doing it as a 22-year-old.
Vrana has a birthday in February, so should he hit it, he will do it as a 23-year-old, but the point is that it has been some time since the Capitals have had a player so young make such a big impact offensively.
On a team that is filled with big-name superstars, Vrana is carving a name out for himself as a player that can carry the Capitals into the future as the next generation of players.
Whether or not he hits 30 goals is remained to be seen, but by the looks of it, it won't be too long before it isn't as much a question if he will, but at which point in the season does he hit the plateau.
Do you think Jakub Vrana could hit the 30-goal mark this season? Let us know in the comment section below!