After bidding adieu to the Washington Capitals, goaltender Vitek Vanecek had a fun message for his Alex Ovechkin.
Vanecek, who had spent his entire career in the Washington organization and the last two years between the pipes for the Capitals, will remain in the same division but be on the other side of the ice following a draft-day trade to the New Jersey Devils. And, as he prepares to begin a new journey with the Devils, he is ready to shut down his former captain.
“I’m really excited to play against him and then stop everything,” Vanecek said Tuesday with a laugh.
Washington traded Vanecek, and its 2022 No. 46 pick to New Jersey just minutes before the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft in exchange for the No. 37 and No. 70 selections, which would end up being Ryan Chesley and Alexander Suzdalev. Vanecek, meanwhile, signed a three-year extension with the Devils, who expect him to compete with Mackenzie Blackwood for the full-time starting job.
Vanecek wrapped up his D.C. tenure with a .908 save percentage through 79 games at the NHL level with the Capitals. During that two-year stint up with the big club, the Czech netminder watched Ovechkin dish a total of 74 goals and 58 assists while moving all the way up to sole possession of third on the NHL’s all-time goals list after passing Jaromir Jagr on March 15.
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Ovechkin now sits at 780 goals and is the highest-scoring European of all time, and he is also 115 goals away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time scoring record.
“I mean, he’s special, special player, you know? His shot is really different you can see in the practice,” Vanecek added.
While practice was just that at the end of the day, Vanecek is ready to make the most of his opportunity in Jersey. And that means giving one of the greatest goal scorers of all time a challenge.
Washington will face New Jersey four times this upcoming season. The Capitals will first visit Newark on Oct. 24, and Vanecek will make his homecoming on Nov. 26. Washington will then play host for two more games in 2023, including one on March 9 and the home season finale on April 13.