Washington Capitals 23 year old defenseman Tomas Kundratek expected to stick in the NHL this season. However, the Czech blue liner was waived earlier this week and was sent to the Hershey Bears shortly after. Capitals’ defensive prospects Dmitry Orlov and Connor Carrick were chosen to stay on the training camp roster over Kundratek.
“He’s gotta survive this hiccup and play good down there and wait his turn again,” Capitals coach Adam Oates told CSN Washington. “His skating is one of his best attributes, but the NHL is fast.
The offensively skilled defenseman totaled seven points in 25 games for the Capitals last year. He’s a highly talented offensive player with strong skating ability, but has yet to develop a strong defensive game that can keep him on the ice in important spots.
“When he was here he didn’t rely on that, he just played,” added Oates. “When he goes down there, he gets a little cocky with his skating and tries to do too much, thinking he’s invincible and you put yourself out of position. He has to stay within the boundaries of the system.”
Kundratek returned to action last night in Hershey’s second preseason game, a 6-1 rout of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He turned the puck over a few times in the first period, but was more effective as the game progressed.
“We had a long chat him and I,” Hershey Bears coach Mike Haviland said after the game. “He has an amazing attitude and I think that’s one of the biggest things for a guy getting sent down. Obviously he thought he was going to make it and be there, he wants to work at his game, he wants to get better.”
The newest Hershey Bears head coach has years of experience with talented defenseman including Brent Seabrook when he was an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks. Haviland hopes that he can help Kundratek mature his game, on both ends of the ice, offensively and defensively. Haviland admitted that Kundratek can play at a higher level, which could elevate him to the next level.
“It was really good for me to see him in a game tonight. I think he’s got a ton of skill, I think he’s got another gear that he could play in on a regular basis and that’s going to be our job to get it out of him. That’s the one thing I noticed tonight. I see it at times, but he needs to do it all the time to be in the National Hockey League.”
“He plays poised with the puck and we’ll work with him all year. He wants to get back to the NHL and I love that attitude. That’s the right attitude to have right now.” Kundratek will get a chance to log a ton of minutes in Hershey, along with a shot at playing the point on the Bears’ top power play unit. He totaled 16 goals and 15 assists in 49 games for Hershey last year and showed his potential. Now, he needs to show it on a consistent basis if he wants to make it back to Washington.