Jakub Vrana is scoring in minors. Here's why Detroit Red Wings haven't recalled him
Adding a projected 30-to-40-goal scorer a few weeks before the trade deadline is an enticing prospect for a team looking to put together a winning streak.
Jakub Vrana appears to have "gotten his game in order," as he was tasked by the Detroit Red Wings to do when he was assigned to the minors in January. After a slow start — understandable, given he had spent two months away from hockey in the players assistance program from mid-October to mid-December — Vrana has six goals and two assists his last eight games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
General manager Steve Yzerman has yet to comment on the matter, but coach Derek Lalonde did so on Monday.
"Of late, he’s been scoring a lot," Lalonde said. "He also went almost a month with one goal in that league. So you are constantly evaluating and seeing where things are at."
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The AHL is on its All-Star break this week, while the Wings are coming out of the NHL one. They resume their season Tuesday when they host the Edmonton Oilers, the first of 34 games left on the slate.
It just so happens the Wings are fully healthy for the first time this season, and that a young player — Jonatan Berggren — is the reason they waived veteran Adam Erne over the weekend. That puts a squeeze on recalling anybody else.
"We’re healthy, so we’re battling for roster spots," Lalonde said. "Adam went through waivers the other day. A lot goes into it. Like, Berggren put a wrench in a lot of plans. We probably didn’t expect him to be here right now. And that’s a roster spot. You could probably argue Elmer (Söderblom) should be up here the way he has been scoring, and playing of late.
"The luxury of having some depth is a good thing right now."
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The Wings signaled they were willing to lose Vrana, whose 13 goals in 26 games last season extrapolates to 41 in an 82-game season, for nothing when they exposed him on waivers. They found no takers at the time, but Vrana seemingly playing a complete game (he has a plus or even rating in seven of the past eight games) may change things ahead of the March 3 trade deadline.
"We want all of our players to be good away from the puck," Lalonde said. "I think him scoring goals of late is probably him tightening his game in other areas to put himself in that situation."
If the Wings wanted to bring up Vrana, they could waive little-used Robert Hägg, who is one of eight defensemen on the 23-man roster. As Lalonde iterated, the Wings are, "constantly evaluating."
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings 'constantly evaluating' Jakub Vrana in AHL