The move leaves Washington with the bare minimum of 12 forwards and a 21-man roster ahead of a three-game homestand. Earlier this week, Coach Barry Trotz said his preference would be to carry 22 players, so the team is expected to recall another forward at least before its road game in Ottawa on Jan. 7.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the player, as well as we’ve got to win hockey games,” Trotz said earlier in the week. “We’ve got to balance that, and that’s what we’re going to do, whatever’s best for his development and us winning, we’ll do that balance.”
Vrana, 20, recorded three points, one goal and two assists, in 12 games with the Capitals, his first stint in the NHL. The 2014 first-round draft pick made his debut on Dec. 1 against the Islanders and scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 9 at Buffalo.
But while Vrana started strong, Trotz said his play had fallen off in recent games, leading to him being a healthy scratch for two straight games. Vrana mostly played on a third line with Lars Eller, and with Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky on the line the past two games, that trio has been arguably Washington’s best, scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Vrana has registered 16 points, nine goals and seven assists, in 18 games with Hershey this season and ranks tied for third on the team in goals. He registered 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 36 games as a rookie with Hershey in 2015-16.
The Capitals are having an optional skate on Sunday morning, but here’s what the lineup is expected to look like:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T. J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter)