Andre Burakovsky‘s junior team, the Erie Otters, kicked off the OHL Western conference finals against Guelph Storm on Thursday.

The series features the league’s two best regular-season teams and could become the best match-up of the playoffs, featuring three NHL first-round draft selections (Burakovsky, Brendan Gaunce, and Jason Dickinson) as well as three shoo-ins to be picked in the first round of either 2014 or 2015 (Robby Fabbri, Connor McDavid, and Dylan Strome).

Game One more than lived up to the hype: the teams combined for nine goals on 53 shots, trading the lead all game long. Guelph won 5-4 at home and retained home-ice advantage. Burakovsky, playing on the Otters second line with Strome and Michael Curtis, was the catalyst of Erie’s attacks, earning third star of the game honors.

In the second period, Burakovsky collected the puck behind the net, carried it to the half wall, avoided a big hit by Tyler Bertuzzi, then walked to the middle lane to fire from between the circles. His shot was deflected by Strome and found the back of the net, making the score 3-2 Otters less than half a minute after Brendan Gaunce erased the Storm’s lead.

Burakovsky is #95 in white.

In the third period, Burakovsky gave the Otters another lead, this time to make it 4-3. After corralling a pass from Curtis in the neutral zone, Burakovsky cut to the middle and fired a shot past Justin Nichols. Unfortunately for the young Swedish forward, that lead lasted for just 25 seconds until Bertuzzi tied the game again. Guelph’s Ryan Horvat would score the game winner soon thereafter.

Both of Burakovsky’s points came from him making the plays on the right wing (his off wing), where he’s been playing for some time now, developing chemistry with two left-handed forwards, Strome and Curtis. The gameplan for him is to use his stickhandling in traffic, cut to the middle of the ice, get the goalie on the move, and gain a good angle to shoot the puck. With his quick release, goaltenders are often unable to get square to the shooter in time.

Burakovsky rushed the puck up the ice on nearly every shift, helping his linemates to hem the opposition in their zone. OHL doesn’t track shot attempts, but Burakovsky seemed to spend the majority of his ice time in the offensive zone.

Here’s one of his rushes:

And here’s a long shift in the offensive zone:

Burakovsky also went beyond his responsibilities, getting physical in his own zone against Stephen Pierog, as well as six-foot-seven Justin Auger.

This was Burakovsky’s most complete performance I’ve seen all year. He was involved, he knew what he was doing in his own zone, and he played very smartly with the puck.

Burakovsky’s two-point performance solidified his position as the leader in playoff goals. He now has a two-goal advantage over Bertuzzi, his teammate Dane Fox, North Bay’s Nick Paul, and Barrie’s Brendan Lemieux (son of Claude).

Despite the loss, Burakovsky’s strong play in all zones is one of the reasons why it’s far too early for the Otters fans to panic. Otters and Storm will play in game two on Friday.

  • Bilal

    Go Burakovsky! can’t wait till he joins the NHL. I just hope we don’t rush him in. Hopefully he can develop well. He’s gonna be real good.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    ugh

    the last thing the Caps need is a strong possession forward who makes room for other players to score

    NO THANKS

  • Smiley456

    No fears. If Oates is the coach, our fourth line playing 3 minutes per game will be Burakovsky, Kuzy, and Wilson. :-)

  • Fedor

    Best fourth line in a league by a mile. Meanwhile, top three lines will play dump and chase.

  • Ben Reed

    The first video YouTube recommends for me after watching Burakovsky’s “rush” video: “How to Play Boston’s ‘More than a Feeling’” on guitar.

  • CadleCreek

    his sticks too long

  • Chris Cerullo

    I cringe when he cuts through the middle like that, but his skating is fantastic and he has a sick release. Developing perfectly so far.

  • CadleCreek

    why do you cringe?
    It’s called a lateral cut. you do it between the dot and top of the circle to draw the near defender up and the far defender to start thinking about sliding over to shut down the center lane. It opens the far side(f2) driving the net and makes the goalie reset his feet. If f3 reads correctly and slides across behind in, you also open the drop or reverse pass(depending on the near side defenders read) and letting f3 drive the open lane you just left. I prefer this to the outside circle were you put your back to the play.

    Getting the d used to you doing a lateral cut also can open the possibility to faking a cut and driving around a defensemen that bites up to quickly and stops their backwards momentum.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    everything is wrong
    WE GET IT FEDOR

  • Fedor

    I think maybe Chris meant that is a very dangerous move in terms of concussion problems?

  • Smiley456

    Peter, can you explain what would be wrong with “strong possession forward who makes room for other players to score”? I thought you were joking, but now I’m not sure. Weren’t the CAPS an awful possession team?

  • CadleCreek

    I understood what he was getting at, just explaining it is basic hockey play. It’s one of the first offensive zone hockey plays taught to kids. From Chris’s comment, it seemed he may not know this.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    just funnin

  • OVECHKING

    Concussions can occur from a variety of plays. Cutting to the middle of the ice is a very safe play as long as you keep your head up. We’ve all seen those Stevens hits and think of that whenever we see a play cut to the middle of the ice and that clouds the actual reality of the play. Ovi did it probably more than any other guy I can remember during his first 4 seasons in the league. He came close a few times to getting absolutely david booth-ed but usually kept his head up to avoid contact. This sort of play done successfully creates miscoverage and defensive players switching to their off foot. All advantageous for the player with the puck and his trailing teammates.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Lol I’ve played hockey my entire life, hence my profile picture. Make that play in the NHL 6-7 times a game and we’ll see what happens. Don’t understand the condescending tone.

  • Chris Cerullo

    I’m not four years old. It was a simple comment. If he keeps his head up then it’s fine. Stuff like that is not only a risk to head shots but also knee on knee. Which we’ve seen before.

  • RelaxPsycho

    Wow, robot man relax would you. Go troll ESPN Hockey

  • RelaxPsycho

    Sorry, meant for cadlecreek!!!

  • John M

    Bitter sarcasm will reign until the Capitals have a brain trust transplant.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Don’t worry gotcha.