A trade in hockey can certainly rejuvenate a player and get them on the right track following a few stumbling blocks at the beginning of their career. For the Washington Capitals’ Tomas Kundratek, this has certainly been the case. He’s transformed from a regular healthy scratch for the Connecticut Whale, minor league affiliate of the New York Rangers, to an AHL all-star this season. The former Rangers third round draft selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft was traded to the Capitals during last season, and immediately made an impact in Hershey, mostly on the offensive side of things.
“It was huge,” said Kundratek of his arrival to the Capitals organization. “It was really nice; I was really excited to come into this organization. It was huge for me.”
The 23 year old defenseman was recently called up by Washington, following the AHL Outdoor Classic Sunday night in which Kundratek tallied Hershey’s only goal. An injury to free agent signee Jack Hillen warranted Kundratek’s trip to the nation’s capital, adding depth to the Capitals blue line. Washington defensive prospect Cameron Schilling attended Capitals shortened training camp following the resolution of the lockout, but did not get the call to the NHL this time around. Kundratek played for the Capitals in the NHL during the 2011-2012 season, but only appeared in five regular season games.
“Definitely I was really surprised,” Kundratek said on the Capitals website. “I was working hard and was really happy about it.”
He played in first game of the season with Washington Tuesday night, in the Capitals 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Kundratek was paired with veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik and allotted 11 minutes of ice time to go with one shot on goal.
He is highly skilled offensively, but must improve his defense if he wants to stick in the NHL. In Hershey, although he leads the team with 13 goals on the season, his -13 rating ranks him last on the Bears roster. Kundratek has been a stable force on Hershey’s power play that was recently revamped by Capitals head coach Adam Oates, giving him an advantage when coming to Washington.
“It’s good,” Kundratek said of his time in Hershey this season. “I wish my plus-minus would be a little bit better.”
Since Adam Oates co-coached in Hershey at the beginning of the season, Kundratek and other Capitals prospects are familiar with the new system and power play setup, certainly a plus for the young Washington defenseman.
“It’s awesome, they showed us a lot of stuff,” the Capitals prospect said of Oates teachings in Hershey. “It was great; they taught a lot of players new tricks and new stuff about the system.”
It’s unsure of how long Kundratek will be in Washington, but experience in the show certainly won’t hurt. He could be a significant trade chip for offensive depth in a potential deal down the road, but he’ll likely stay in the Capitals organization.
Due to the loss of Kundratek to the NHL, Capitals prospect Brett Flemming was reassigned to the Hershey Bears.