The Detroit Red Wings may have traded an outstanding player in Anthony Mantha, but they also got one back in forward Jakub Vrana. And it won’t be long until the Hockeytown faithful see him in action.
After the dust settled Monday afternoon, Steve Yzerman shared that he expects Vrana and Richard Panik to be in the lineup Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Focusing on just Vrana, let’s dive into what Red Wings fans can expect from their newest acquisition.
Jakub Vrana’s Top-Six Skill Set
Yzerman mentioned that Vrana will essentially step into Mantha’s old role. That means joining Michael Rasmussen and Valtteri Filppula on the second line and occupying a flank on the second power play unit.
It would not be surprising to see Vrana line up alongside Dylan Larkin and Filip Zadina at some point this season. His skill set warrants top line consideration.
“You’re getting a young, promising player with great speed, a wicked shot, and a knack for scoring,” Japers’ Rink’s Sammi Silbur told me of Vrana following the trade.
“His skating is what really stands out. He can move so well up the ice and generate so many chances – he’s gonna make waves for sure.”
The Athletic’s Corey Pronman echoed Silbur’s sentiments about Vrana’s offensive skill set, but also highlighted a few shortcomings:
“Vrana is an undersized forward who isn’t great off the puck, can drift to the perimeter and give inconsistent efforts, often frustrating coaches and scouts over the years I’ve followed him,” noted Pronman. (from ‘NHL trade grades: Capitals overpay for Anthony Mantha in deal with Red Wings’ – The Athletic – 4/12/21)
“Ultimately, despite his up and down performance, particularly this season, I still see Vrana as a long-term top-six forward in the NHL even if he may not reach the true top-of-the-lineup level player that a guy like Mantha is.”
Having seen Vrana live a handful of times, I can vouch for his offensive abilities. He belongs in Detroit’s top six.
He may end up proving to replace Mantha one-for-one in the long run. His stats certainly paint that picture:
|2020-21 Stats (5v5)||Anthony Mantha||Jakub Vrana|
Overall, Vrana’s advanced metrics are superior to those of Mantha. Individually, Vrana has created more offense and has been slightly more reliable on defense – all while playing on Washington’s middle two lines, whereas Mantha typically skated on Detroit’s top line. Essentially, Vrana has done more with less.
Will this continue? Only time will tell. But it’s possible that both players could thrive with their new teams. Mantha certainly has in D.C.
Vrana’s Value to the Red Wings
In addition to his on-ice play, Vrana serves another purpose – something Yzerman called out during his press conference.
“Our core of our team is still relatively young, with Dylan Larkin, with Filip Hronek, and now you see the Zadina’s and Rasmussen’s and other players coming along. We want to surround them with players that help them grow and develop as well. We thought it was a good fit. We got a player that goes into our lineup that can play a similar role and still accomplish what we’re trying to do. And that’s add to the pipeline, so to speak.”–Steve Yzerman (4/12/21)
Rebuilding is not just about stockpiling draft picks and prospects, but also adding to the core and surrounding them with the right players. Vrana does just that.
Having just turned 25, he fits in with Larkin and Zadina’s cohort of players – Vrana will still be relatively young in a couple of years when the Red Wings return to contention. And if they need more time to rebuild at that point, Vrana could prove to be a valuable trade asset.
Vrana is an intriguing add for the Red Wings. He has the chance to be part of Detroit’s core moving forward – it’s up to him whether that happens.
But in the meantime, enjoy the next 12 games with Vrana on the roster. The Red Wings are trending in the right direction and stand out as the early winners of this trade.
Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. Shout out to Dom Luszczyszyn for the stats comparison chart idea.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.