After winning Game 2 to even the series at one game apiece...
What is a Kundratek, Anyway?
Let me preface this by saying that Tomas Kundratek is not Dmitry Orlov. While it’s natural to want to compare the two as rookie d-men who’ve popped up to visit the Caps this year, there’s a world of difference between them in terms of where they’re expected to land on the depth charts in the near future. Orlov is perched comfortably on the Washington blueline, and shows few signs of leaving. Kundratek, on the other hand, is a brief visitor in the big show this year. He’s a smart kid, knows where he stands, and it’s very clear that he’s enjoying every minute of his first successful call-up:
For those of you who follow my regular Hershey coverage, you’re well aware that I’ve been singing the praises of Kundratek since we picked him up in exchange for Francois Bouchard, a member of both Calder Cup winning teams who’d been struggling to get underway this fall (when traded, he’d notched zero points in nine games; he currently has exactly as many points in the season as our new defenseman – 10). If you haven’t, I’ll give you a bit of background to flesh things out.
There’s no question about it, things are looking up for Tomas Kundratek this year. First, he was traded from the Rangers to the Capitals, going from seventh defenseman with the Connecticut Whale to a solid position on the third-pair in Hershey after a transition period. He’s seen time on both the power play and the penalty kill, and been noted for responsible play.
Things have improved from there. Late in December, Kundratek gave himself a belated birthday present by scoring the game winning goal a game against Hershey’s rivals the Baby Pens, which was his sixth tally in the year – four more than his regular season 70-game total in 2010-11. 28 games in, and he’s also within two points of the twelve he registered last year. He’s played in the AHL’s third annual Outdoor Classic, and a week later he’s a whirlwind call-up for the Caps.
As the new man on the ice, Kundratek wasn’t particularly noticeable last night – he took no penalties, he miscued a few passes (expected, if unfortunate), and he took half as many shots on goal as Alex Semin. He played sixteen shifts while partnered with fellow Czech native Roman Hamrlik, adding up to just over eleven minutes of ice time (more than John Erskine saw against the Kings on Monday). He also earned more in a day than he normally does in a week, through the glories of an Entry-Level Contract.
It’s unclear at the moment what Dale Hunter intends to do with his defense department. Both Jeff Schultz and John Erskine were hypothetical healthy scratches last night, and if one includes Kundratek, the blueline roster clocks in at 10 skaters (of those, only Tom Poti and Mike Green are on the injured list). Decisions will be made soon, at which point things will hopefully shake themselves out.
In the meantime, Caps Outsider encourages you to take a few minutes and get to know our newest blueliner. While he might only see a few games in Washington this year, he’s got plenty of potential for the future. We’ll see him up here again, whether next month or next year.