Jakub Vrana left the Czech Republic at age 15 to play in Sweden’s U18 league, and 3 years later, his parents made their first trip to the United States to see their son drafted into the NHL.
It was his mother’s first time in an airplane, and she was uneasy. “She was really nervous, but I tired to help her a little bit,” said Vrana.
Leaving home at such a young age was understandably difficult for him, but he understood it would pave the way for his career.
“I was there alone, in an apartment. I needed to learn a lot of stuff there, let’s say cooking, so I think that helped me a lot with life, too,” said Vrana. “Of course I miss my family, but the choice of why I go there is hockey, and I love hockey. I was really happy every day, with the practices and everything. “
Vrana says he doesn’t know many NHL players, but his playing style has been compared to Los Angeles Kings winger Marian Gaborik. He is confident he can put in the necessary work to make it to the NHL. “I just want to try to do everything to make the team,” he said.
“I think you can make better everything as a player, so I will work on everything. I want to be better at everything. I want to be the best.”
He’s not sure what it will take to make it in the NHL yet, though, since he hasn’t been tested.“I haven’t been in any camps yet, I haven’t tried it, so we will see. I will fight about my spot and do my best.”
The Capitals took Vrana 13th overall after trying to move up a couple picks to take defenseman Haydn Fleury, according to general manager Brian MacClellan. It obviously didn’t pan out, so Vrana was their choice.
There is a connection between the Capitals and Vrana, as well. While in the Czech Republic, Vrana played most of his young life at former Capitals defenseman Frantisek Kucera, who played 56 games with the franchise before being traded to Pittsburgh as part of the maligned Jaromir Jagr trade. Kucera’s brother, Vojtek is a Capitals scout.
“I know their one scout [Vojtek], his brother owned the rink where I played when I played in Czech, so I know him really well. It was nice to see him there, not only in the rink but every day I was in Czech.”
Regarded as a fast skater with a hard shot, Vrana considers himself a “finisher,” that is, he excels at scoring goals rather than setting them up. Though he’s struggled to find ice time with Linkoping this season (2 goals in 24 games), he said working on defense after practices has helped him improve in a weak area as well.
When asked about his emotional approach to the game, he quipped, “You never know when is going to be your last goal. You have to celebrate it.”