HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears were assigned an important Washington Capitals prospect, as the Capitals recalled Aliaksei Protas from the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk. Protas was recalled from his loan on Tuesday to return to the organization after joining the club back in August. With Dinamo Minsk’s season concluded, he was brought back into the Caps organization to finish the season in Hershey.
Landing in Hershey is an interesting twist on the rules of this season. Normally, Protas would return to the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, who are preparing to play in a shortened season in the CHL, but according to NoVa Caps, it sounds as though Protas would have to go through some hoops just to play in the WHL, nor would the league be allowing players returning from Europe to participate in the season. This allows for some leeway for Protas to join the Bears, as the AHL is allowing prospects who are typically not AHL-eligible to play this season until their junior seasons would begin. Since Protas is not AHL-eligible due to his age, the rule allows him to play the remainder of this season with the Bears.
Protas, the 6-foot-7 center, is a big addition to the Bears after completing his first professional season in the KHL. He previously spent time playing with current Bears forward Brett Leason in juniors with the Prince Alberta Raiders, and Capitals GM Brian MacLellan has expressed interest in getting prospects from Europe to Hershey as their seasons conclude, according to a recent interview.
Protas is a third-round selection of the Capitals during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, taken shortly after Leason (who was an over-ager at the time, which was why he jumped right to the Bears for the 2019-20 season), and was a solid contributor with Dinamo Minsk, tallying ten goals and eight assists in 58 regular-season games as well as a goal and three assists in five playoff games.
Prior to the season shutdown in 2019-20, Protas was having a great season in the WHL, tallying 31 goals and 49 assists for 80 points in 58 games played.
Not only will Protas be in game shape straight away when he joins Hershey, but having professional experience under his belt will help him tremendously in adjusting to AHL play. The style of play between the KHL and North American play in the AHL will be a bit of an adjustment for Protas, but the experience of playing in the WHL for two seasons is also beneficial in this regard in terms of strategies and the difference in rink size. Having a familiar face on the team in Leason will be important too, as the second-year Bear is enjoying a strong start to the season. Pairing the 6-foot-7 Protas with the 6-foot-5 Leason would be the most sizeable line Hershey has had in some time, as the duo enjoyed success on the same line in the 2018-19 season.
It’s worth noting that Protas may not be in the Bears’ lineup this weekend depending on what protocols he may have to pass after coming from Europe, but he’ll be exciting to watch with the team this season. Protas should be a regular in the lineup next season as well, as he becomes AHL-eligible in 2021-22. Protas will wear #40 for the Bears, according to the team’s official release on the news.
Expect a few more additions from overseas, as the Bears will likely receive Bobby Nardella and Alexander Alexeyev from their loans from Sweden and Russia, respectively, as their seasons conclude.
Hershey will finish a home-and-home set with the Binghamton Devils on Sunday.
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