Detroit Red Wings: Where should Jakub Vrána play in his return?

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Red Wings are trying to break through a rough patch in their season after dropping six of their last seven games since the team returned to the ice after the holidays. Not the best start to the 2022 calendar year whatsoever.

There’s room to improve and stay in the hunt for a wildcard spot as the 2021-22 season continues. The Detroit Red Wings have hope as well, knowing they will be getting forward Jakub Vrána back from the injured reserve.

Vrána has been sidelined since before the season when he sustained a shoulder injury in September of 2021, requiring a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for four months at the very least. But as the calendar gets closer to February, it seems that Vrána should be able to make his return sooner than later.

According to reports from Mlive, Vrána has been back on the ice working on getting conditioned and keeping his legs in shape. He’s far from being cleared for contact as he cannot even work on shooting and passing due to his recovery timetable. But the end of the road for Vrána is on the horizon.

Detroit Red Wings should let Vrána slot into the top six.

When his return does finally come, the Red Wings will have to figure out where to play him. His audition with the Red Wings at the end of the 2020-21 season was fantastic. After being acquired from the Washington Capitals in the blockbuster Anthony Mantha trade, he proved a change of scenery would help him.

In just 11 games with the Red Wings last season, Vrána had eight goals and three assists for 11 total points. He combined that with 11 goals and 14 assists over 39 games played with the Capitals for 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 total points over 50 total games in 2020-21.

Vrána deserves to get top-six playing time even coming off of the injury. If he starts in the depths of the third and fourth line as he gets re-acclimated to the NHL pace, that is fine, but he deserves top-tier playing time.

With Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Lucas Raymond locking things down as the top unit, it’s hard to see why Vrána would not earn a winger spot on the second line. I’d like to see Vrána on the team’s second unit when he returns, hopefully with Robby Fabbri and Pius Suter in some capacity.

Another idea to consider is pairing Vrána with Filip Zadina hoping that the two can offset each other and spur some offense from the struggling Zadina. That would require Zadina getting back into the Red Wings top-six or Vrána being down on the third or fourth line, but it’s something to consider.

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Pairing Vrána with Zadina may not be the end-all-be-all fix, but it’s something that head coach Jeff Blashill should consider trying.