Photo: Chris Gordon
After his Team Red lost to Team White 7-4 on Saturday, 2014 first-round pick Jakub Vrana was visibly disappointed. Sure, Vrana was just a few weeks removed from realizing the dream of getting drafted by an NHL team, but the 18-year-old couldn’t get past what happened on the ice.
When I spoke to Vrana afterwards, the Czech winger wasn’t his usual joking, smiling self.
Vrana still shared some interesting nuggets before departing. Vrana said he’s signed to a three-year deal with Linköping of the SHL and is unsure if he’ll be at Caps training camp in the fall. He also revealed some details about that fancy shootout goal he scored and his newfound love of American sandwiches.
My full interview with Vrana, who signed his entry-level contract with the Capitals on Tuesday, is below.
So Jakob, over the last few weeks you got drafted and participated in your first NHL development camp. What has this experience been like for you?
Jakub Vrana: You get used to it. You get drafted and then you feel like you start something new. I enjoy it, and I have fun. I work hard, and I try to do my best the whole time.
Jakub Vrana: I don’t really know. I just try to think, I try to learn new moves, and this move was pretty good, and I’m happy it [went] in.
Was there anyone that influenced you on it? That you saw do in the NHL or somewhere else that you picked it up from?
Jakub Vrana: Actually, no.
Really? Just straight off the top of your head? Awesome.
Jakub Vrana: Yeah.
Alex Ovechkin called you right after the draft. What were some of the things that he said to you?
Jakub Vrana: He just said, “Welcome in the team,” and you know, “How are you?” It was nice to talk to him.
How familiar are you with Ovechkin out in Sweden where you’ve been playing? What do you know about him?
Jakub Vrana: I know he’s a great player, one of the best in the world. He can shoot, he can skate, he’s a great offensive player. He’s good.
Are you planning on coming to Capitals training camp this year (the SHL season starts in early September)? What’s the plan for you there?
Jakub Vrana: I don’t actually know my plans. We’ll see.
How many years are you planning to stay in Sweden?
Jakub Vrana: I have three years.
A three-year contract?
Jakub Vrana: Yeah.
Why did you initially decide to leave the Czech Republic and play hockey in Sweden?
Jakub Vrana: My team where I play there was like the highest league. It was time to leave and I think in Sweden is good development.
What was it like to leave your home country and play basically all alone out there? Was it a tough transition for you?
Jakub Vrana: The reason was hockey and I love hockey, so it wasn’t that hard.
This week, this was your first time in the country, right?
Jakub Vrana: Yeah.
What was the weirdest thing that you saw in America?
Jakub Vrana: I don’t know. I like everything here. The people are nice. The food is good. Again, the reason is hockey, so…
Did you try any new food?
Jakub Vrana: I really like Chinese food. And you have good sandwiches.
Do you think playing with the big club in the SHL last year really helped your development? It seemed like halfway through the year you had a breakthrough (it’s rumored he hired a skating coach). Did you change anything?
Jakub Vrana: SHL is a very good league. It’s a lot of defense. It’s a great league. I think I got a lot of experience there.
What was it like playing with Andre Burakovsky [at development camp]? He’s very talented and you got to play most of the week with him on the first line, right?
Jakub Vrana: He’s a great player, a great skater, a great playmaker. I think there are lots of chances, like shots [on] the net. That was the goal: to have lots of chances.