Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde appreciates the unique skillset that winger Jakub Vrana brings to the ice.
“Offense is tough to come by,” Lalonde said. “You need some of those offensive playmakers. I came from a team and an organization (the Tampa Bay Lightning) where it did not take much for us to create offense. It just helps.”
On the Red Wings roster, Vrana is a unicorn. He just needs one chance to score. There’s no one else on the team with those kinds of unique capabilities. In 37 games with Detroit, Vrana has scored 21 goals.
Great chance to visit today with @DetroitRedWings forward, Jakub Vrana- beaming at the prospects for a healthy year. He had 13 goals in just 26 games in his last injury ravaged season…. pic.twitter.com/KQhaSOCset
— John Keating (@JohnKeatingBSD) September 22, 2022
Over an 82-game season, that translates to 47 goals.
“Those guys, the elite finishers, you need them,” Lalonde said. “It’s just the reality of it if you’re going to be successful in this league.
“You need those type of players and we certainly have one.”
At the same time, the Red Wings are needing Vrana to be appreciative of the fact that there’s other things he must do on the ice in order to be a responsible player.
Vrana’s 200-Foot Game Requires An Upgrade
“A complete game,” Lalonde lists as the package he desires Vrana to deliver on game night. “Play away from the puck. Hopefully, him being a little more accountable away from the puck.”
It’s a viewpoint that is shared by Red WIngs GM Steve Yzerman.
“I’d like him to be more impactful in other areas of the game,” Yzerman said of Jakub Vrana. “He, like all of our players, if we’re gonna win hockey games, we want all these guys to be real conscientious defensively.”
Three days into training camp, there’s already signs that the message is getting through to the 26-year-old Czech left winger.
“(In) practice we addressed some things, pointed some things out to him where he could be a little bit better away from the puck,” Lalonde explained. “And to his credit, I thought he was better on the whole. He stood out in practice with some effort and some compete.
“He’s had his nose in everything. The high compete drills, they physical reps, he’s been right in there.”
Vrana Enjoying First Training Camp With Red Wings
Training camp is where bad habits are broken and new ones are learned. Since he came to Detroit at the 2021 NHL trade deadline, this is Vrana’s first training camp with the Red Wings. He missed all of last fall’s camp and much of the season. Vrana injured his should during the first on-ice session. To repair the damage done, surgery was a requirement.
Zadina & Vrana last two players on the ice. Talking about picking corners. pic.twitter.com/KpXHqwkpfM
— Ken Kal (@KenKalDRW) September 24, 2022
“The excitement on my side,” Vrana said. “I can’t describe it. Last season being out a long time. The previous season we had a shortened season.
“I wasn’t able to play a full season in a few years here so I’m really excited. I’m going to go day by day, not too much ahead at this moment. Just focusing on the new system we have here and doing things right every day. Just enjoy being here and playing hockey.”
Vrana Gets Goals, Doesn’t Set Goals
While there’s been no shortage of speculation about many times Vrana can net over the course of a full season, one of those speculators isn’t him. He’s a goal getter. Not a goal setter.
“Not really,” Vrana answered as to whether he had a number in mind for his 2022-23 goals total. “I don’t want to put extra thoughts in my head for no reason.
“Obviously, I’m an offensive forward, so I like scoring goals. But it’s about just doing my best and doing what I can do best out there and how can I help my team the most and go from there. Just doing what I can do out there to help my team win games.”
The Red Wings don’t want Vrana to forget what’s made him famous.
“He’s impressive with the puck certainly,” Lalonde said. “Sometimes you know guys are skilled guys but you don’t have an appreciation for their skills until you’re actually with them and on the ice. You don’t get a true appreciation for how skilled they are.
“Man, he’s got a special shot. He’s got some offensive tools that are very special and I’ve probably got more of an appreciation being on the ice with him.”
They just want Vrana to appreciate that winning hockey is all about playing a 200-foot game.
“He’s a goal-scoring winger,” Yzerman said. “We expect him to do that, but like all of our guys, we’re gonna insist that they have some defensive awareness as well.”