Former Washington Capitals and current Detroit Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana took a major step forward on his road back to the NHL following time in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, as he laced 'em up and returned to pro game action and made his season debut with the Wings' AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old is playing with the Griffins as part of a three-game conditioning stint before he heads back up to Detroit to get back in the swing of game action. He returned to skating with the Red Wings on Dec. 16. And while down in Grand Rapids, Vrana caught up with Griffins broadcaster Bob Kaser on WOOD Radio to discuss his return to play and open up more about his time away and getting help.
"It's important to have your life in order," Vrana told Kaser in a radio interview that aired during the first intermission, via Field Pass Hockey's Andrew Rinaldi. "You have to know what you want for yourself. Those are the most important things."
Vrana hasn't gone into specifics about what he entered the program for, but he said that he is feeling good about where he is right now and believes he is on the right path forward.
"There is a plan. It doesn't matter if it's in life or whatever you do. You have to work on yourself, but you're going to do it with a good heart," Vrana added in the interview.
The Czech forward also acknowledged the support he has received so far as he continues his comeback.
"I feel the support. I'm really happy, I got so many letters," Vrana said. "Whatever life puts in front of me, I want to win that battle. It's nice to have these people behind [me]. I just want to go back and give the people what they want. There are bigger things in life to get in order first."
Vrana spent the first five years of his career with Washington before the Capitals traded him to Detroit for Anthony Mantha back at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. Since then, he's played just 39 games with the Red Wings due to a shoulder injury and time in the PA program, but in that small sample size, he has 22 goals and 10 assists for 32 points. In two games this season before entering the program, he had a goal and assist.