Left wing Jakub Vrana, expected to be the Detroit Red Wings’ leading scorer this season, will have shoulder surgery and be sidelined for at least four months.
“He has had some issues with it, went through the summer rehabbing and ultimately aggravated it,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Unfortunately, it was in the first practice. It could have happened three weeks into the season. That’s what happens these type of deals. Ultimately, surgery is the last option.”
Vrana, 25, was injured 10 minutes into his first practice at the Traverse City part of training camp. The earliest Vrana could be back is late January.
“Jakub thought he could get through the season,” Blashill said. “Unfortunately he couldn’t.”
Vrana’s injury opens the door for a rookie, such as Lucas Raymond or Joe Veleno, to make the team. Or, veteran Bobby Ryan, on a tryout contract could end up back on the team. General manager Steve Yzerman also has more than $15 million in cap space to use if he wants to explore the trade market.
“(This) opens up a top six spot and a power play spot for somebody,” Blashill said.
No matter who fills the role, the injury is a major blow for a rebuilding team that hopes, maybe even expects, to be a better offensive team this season. Vrana scored eight goals in 11 games for Detroit last season and has 30-goal potential
“Going into the season we had penciled in some big roles and he’d (have the) opportunity to score some goals for us,” Blashill said. “Certainly we would be better spot today as we stand if he was healthy and ready to go. But he is not. That is the reality of of life.”
Jakub Vrana Surgery Creates Opening
Blashill seems to be keeping an open mind about whether a veteran or a young player should be Vrana’s replacement.
“We’ve talked about someone like a Bobby Ryan or a Joe Veleno,” Blashill said. “Do they make the team? …with two young guys I’ve talked about lots (Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno) they are going to have to play great. Bobby is going to have to play great. But if they play great there is an avenue there for them.”
Raymond is only 19. Starting in the American Hockey League would probably be beneficial for him. But Blashill has made it clear he will get a fair shot to make the team.
“If all things are equal,” Blashill said. “If we look at it and a player X is equal and a young player Y has played about the same and we keep player X and Y why wouldn’t do that. (But) if one guy is way better, then one guy is way better.”
Coach Jeff Blashill made the Jakub Vrana announcement Thursday on the morning of Detroit’s first home preseason game. Raymond will play his first NHL preseason game.
“I told him my wife is watching,” Blashill said. “He’s got to make sure he stands out that way.”
Blashill has joked in a previous press conference that for Raymond to make the team he needs to make it obvious to the point that even his wife, Erica, would know he belongs on the team.
How does Raymond make the team?
“It’s extremely competitive,” Raymond said. “There are a lot of great players. So I’m just trying to play my game …and competing really hard.”