Detroit — Jakub Vrana didn’t know how it would all come together.
Vrana had never been traded before, so when he joined the Red Wings earlier this month in the unexpected bombshell deal for Anthony Mantha — forward Richard Panik and two draft picks also arrived in Detroit — Vrana didn’t know what to expect.
But judging from the early returns, and especially Vrana’s four-goal outburst Thursday in the 7-3 victory over Dallas, everything seems to be going rather well.
Simply put, Vrana seems to be fitting in real well, and the Red Wings are more than glad to have him.
“Since Day 1, everyone has been real helpful here,” Vrana said Thursday after his standout performance. “Anything you need, you can ask anyone. When you come to a new team, on the ice, there are a lot of new things and new system. Everything is new for you, and you’re trying to get to know everything.
“There are a great group of guys here.”
Vrana won a Stanley Cup in Washington in 2018 and had only known life in the NHL as a member of the Capitals, a seemingly valuable member.
The trade was a shock to Vrana’s system, too, as his name wasn’t generally part of the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline.
But in leaving Washington — and its situation as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender — for the rebuilding Red Wings, Vrana has adjusted as well as can be expected.
There are pieces in place in the organization that have the ability to get the Wings back among the NHL’s elite some day. And Vrana is excited about that.
“We’re trying to build something here,” Vrana said. “There are some young guys coming into the league and they are getting to know the league and they’re learning here. We are trying to get better and work on things. I can say everyone has a work ethic here.
“I came in here trying to fit in as soon as possible. So far, there’s been ups and down and we are not in the playoffs, (but) we are trying to do the best we can every game and make it count.
“That’s just a sign we are trying to build something here for the future.”
It was the way Vrana scored that was so impressive and exciting for the Red Wings and their fans, judging from the love on social media.
The four goals came in a varying and dizzying array of styles.
“The goals were goal-scorer’s goals, a lot of them,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
Thursday’s effort was the biggest impact yet and ironically Vrana was the latest Wings player to score four goals since Mantha on Oct. 6, 2019 against, again ironically, the same Dallas Stars.
On the first goal Vrana came down on a 2-on-1 rush with Filip Zadina and unleased a wicked wrist shot after receiving a deft pass from Zadina.
Vrana used his hands on the second goal, redirecting a point shot from Danny DeKeyser. On goal No. 3, Vrana used his breakaway speed to skate away from Dallas defenders and score. Then to cap the evening, he went to the net and backhanded a rebound into the net.
“He’s got some of that ability to self-generate, because of his speed,” Blashill said. “That’s what speed guys can do. They don’t need, necessarily, great passes. They can self-generate, and he’s done that a little bit.
“Some guys need 10 shots to score, some guys can score on one shot. And he’s one of those guys that really has a special ability to score goals.”
Just leading to the trade, and afterward, there were reports out of Washington that Vrana wasn’t receptive to Capitals coach Peter Laviolette and maybe preferred a change of scenery.
But in the early days of this marriage, Vrana has appeared to be more than willing to be coached and has soaked up everything that Wings’ coaches have been saying.
“Him and I have talked of really honing in on winning stick battles and being strong on his stick,” Blashill said. “That’s a big area of focus for him. The last two games he’s done a good job with it. He seems to understand, be receptive to the coaching, and he’s getting better at it.”
Vrana simply appears excited about getting a bigger opportunity with the Wings than he would have in the near future with Washington.
And there’s a definite sense of being wanted that’s also appealing.
“In Washington I didn’t get as much opportunities as I get here,” Vrana said. “I like it when somebody gives me a chance and I want to make the most of it. This is an opportunity for me.”