In just 11 games with the Detroit Red Wings, Jakub Vrana set fan expectations high with eight goals and three assists. Can Vrana bring that kind of performance into the 2021-22 season?
2nd Season With the Red Wings
(Advanced stats courtesy of Evolving-Hockey)
Last Season With the Red Wings
Fans of the Red Wings (and even fans around the league) labeled the Anthony Mantha trade a win as soon as the details were released – a 2021 first round pick, a 2022 second, Richard Panik and Jakub Vrana from Washington in exchange for Mantha. Vrana’s 11 games with the Red Wings after the trade only reinforced that narrative, as he scored a point per game with eight goals and three assists (four of those goals coming in just one game against Dallas).
Vrana’s first stretch of play with the Red Wings was absolutely fantastic. While he doesn’t have the defensive skills of Detroit’s other top forwards, he illustrated his high-level scoring ability – probably the best on the roster. It’s impossible to truly analyze Vrana’s impact in Detroit with such a small sample size, but there’s no doubt that he’s a key part of the offense.
Best Case Scenario for the Season
Vrana continues his electric performance into ’21-’22 and keeps on scoring. That doesn’t necessarily mean a point per game performance – that’s a tall task for any player through a full 82 game season. But leading the team in goals and thriving in a larger role with the team would be a fantastic result that is well within reach. Vrana has already proved what he’s capable of with a big role on the team, this season he does it consistently.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season
Vrana’s shooting percentage regresses and he struggles with consistency. In fact, a rough season for Vrana would look very familiar to Detroit fans: it’d be strikingly similar to Mantha at his worst; Cold stretches without any points, seemingly low-effort performances (especially defensively) and games where he just seems invisible. Fans start to bring out the Mantha narratives for Vrana and question his role in the team’s future.
The Prediction Part
Vrana will have some growing pains adjusting to a larger role in Detroit, but he’ll still lead the team in goals. He has the best shot on the team and he can actually finish on scoring chances, which was a struggle for a good chunk of the roster last season.
Least season, Vrana was forced to play on an extremely inconsistent top six, with Robby Fabbri, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi all affected by injury. Vrana is going to get top line minutes with competent line mates in a larger role than he had in Washington; while he might not put up a point per game, Vrana is going to be the best offensive player on the roster.
Possibility of Being a Trade Deadline Target: Slim
I would’ve said the possibility of a Mantha trade was slim-to-none at the beginning of last year, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.
Vrana’s role in Detroit’s rebuild is unclear at this point; if Steve Yzerman thinks he can flip Vrana for assets to better fit the timeline of the rebuild, he’ll do it. That’s exactly what he did to Mantha. However, like the Mantha trade, the offer would have to be very high. Also, in a trade scenario, Vrana would likely be having a disappointing year. If he’s an important part of the team’s offense/overall improvement, it’d be quite the blow to team morale to ship him off. Vrana will likely remain in Detroit this year.
The Bottom Line
This season is going to answer a lot of questions about Vrana. Is he a part of the rebuild? Can he thrive in a larger role? Can he stay consistent? Is that 11 game performance possible to replicate throughout an entire season?
The Red Wings are expected to improve this season. The area that needs the most help? Offense. This is where Vrana can find a role in the rebuild – if the team finally takes a step forward offensively this season, Vrana will have something to do with it. If he continues to have the sort of success he had in his first 11 games, Vrana will become a fan favorite and a part of the future. If he struggles with consistency, he might get the Mantha treatment from fans.
Like Nate mentioned in his first player analysis, this year seems to be putting the spotlight on specific player performances. Vrana is going to get an entire season to illustrate his skills to the staff. It’s going to be exciting to see what he can do in his first full season with the Red Wings.