Aliaksei Protas: New number, new drive

Aliaksei Protas, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Aliaksei Protas, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Aliaksei Protas was one young Washington Capitals player that impressed me the most last season. I thought he played good when he got the chance and has a chance to be even better under a new coach in Spencer Carbery.

After wearing number 59 at his first camp with the Capitals, it stuck with him up until now as the forward will be switching his number this season to 21.

Think of all the amazing Washington, D.C. athletes who wore this number. From Brooks Laich, to Garnet Hathaway, to Sean Taylor.

Protas is no stranger to the number 21. He wore it with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. It was always his number before making the move to the NHL where the Capitals selected him in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

Although 21 was initially occupied by Garnet Hathaway when he finally got called up to the big leagues, Protas acknowledged to The Athletic’s Tarik El Bashir (subscription required) that he would have to “earn” the opportunity to pick his own number.

The exact verbiage in December was, “Who am I to change it right now? Got to earn it.”

He earned those stripes and the right to change his number thanks to being expected to make the full time jump to the NHL roster. Brian MacLellan even praised him during one of his sessions with the media.

In 58 games last season he had four goals and 11 assists. He has great puck control and uses his size to his advantage. And he’s a big dude. Seeing him in the hallway at a game, he had the height of someone in the NBA.

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Not only did he play in 58 games but the Caps missing the playoffs allowed him to head back to Hershey to help the Bears pursue their first Calder Cup championship since 2010. He was one of the candidates for MVP and had 13 points in 20 games.