andre-burakovsky

While the Washington Capitals’ past season was an unmitigated disaster, there was one bright spot located about 364 miles northwest of the district in Erie, Pennsylvania. Unheralded 2013 first round draft pick Andre Burakovsky had a breakout year with the OHL’s Erie Otters. His rapid development in Erie could launch him into the NHL next season.

But things could have gone very differently. Last July, after being selected fifth overall by the Otters in the CHL Draft, Burakovsky revealed disappointment with the decision, telling a local reporter, “this is not what I had in mind.” The young Swede, who spent the season before playing for the Malmo Redhawks of the HockeyAllsvenskan, did not want to join the OHL team.

It wasn’t until some convincing from then-GM George McPhee that Burakovsky signed on to play for the Otters, who were led by future 2015 first overall draft pick Connor McDavid.

Speaking to Uffe Bodin of hockeysverige.se, Burakovsky explained just how happy he was with that decision.

“This has absolutely been the best season in my career,” Burakovsky said to Bodin and translated by friend-of-the-blog Jake Ware. “Apart from a dip after the World Juniors, I have played great all season.”

“Before I was unsure of the level of hockey, but it was much better than I expected,” he continued. “This is the best junior league in the world, and you can understand why they call it the ‘little NHL.’ The arenas are full and so loud.”

How good was Burakovsky last season? He set a Swedish record in the Canadian junior league by posting 87 points (41 goals, 46 assists) in 57 games. He followed that up with 10 goals in 14 playoff games before Erie was eliminated in the Conference Finals by the eventual champion, the Guelph Storm.

Now back in his hometown of Malmö, Burakovsky has set his sights set on training camp this fall with the Washington Capitals. He has had contact with management and the feedback has been very positive.

“The scouts have been really pleased with my development and think I have taken great steps,” he said. “They’ve said I’m close to breaking onto the team. It feels awesome to hear that. The NHL is a huge dream and now it feels like I’m quite close to it. It gives me extra motivation in training for next season.”

In fact, Burakovsky has been working out manically at home in Sweden– he conducted this interview after a dryland session with his personal trainer Jonas Morin. After spending the entire season with Erie, he hopes to at least get a taste of the NHL next year.

“As a junior player you can play nine NHL games without the contract kicking in and I could see myself getting that now,” he said. “But I have to have a really good camp first. I did last year.”

Since Burakovsky was drafted from Europe and not North America, he can play in the AHL even though he is still junior-eligible. That will likely happen if he doesn’t make the Washington roster in the fall.

“Hershey might be an alternative, but of course that’s not where I want to be,” Burakovsky said. “The NHL is the goal, and I know it will be tough, but that is my number one priority. Hershey is the next alternative.”

He added, “[Management] will decide what is best for me.”

The 19-year-old plans to attend Caps Development Camp held in mid-July. Before then, he hopes to have rid himself of a shoulder injury he picked up during the final game of the season.

“I got tackled after they [Guelph] scored and separated my shoulder,” Burakovsky revealed. “I was supposed to be out four-to-five weeks, but it already feels much better. I just haven’t been able to train my upper-body, I’ve had to focus on my legs.”

Burakovsky, who has a summer full of rigorous training ahead of him, plans to add muscle mass.

“If I want to break into the NHL I have to be stronger in my whole body,” he said. “Both so I can take and give out a big hit.”

Translation by Jake Ware.

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  • Zachary Adomanis

    Time to recycle my Kuzya-clock… Now named Buraclocksky.

  • Rob W.
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    A lot of people on our fan page, believe the organization might be rushing Burakovsky. I’m not sure I agree. From what I’ve seen his skating, stick handling, and shot are all off the charts at this point. He’s a good two way player too. As he said in the article, he could use some extra pounds and just more experience with the North American game. If he doesn’t stick with the Caps out of training camp, I think he’ll have a huge year in the AHL.

  • Luke Anthony

    Really excited about this kid. Was a little worried when we first picked him by his poor draft year season, but he was fantastic in Erie. Unreal skill. He’ll probably be in Hershey, but he should be a star player for them and get a few NHL games in too.

  • Luke Anthony

    On skill alone I agree he’s talented enough to make the team, but no point in having him play 8 or 9 minutes a game when he can play in Hershey. I think it’s more of can he be a top 9 forward, he certainly has a chance.

  • Rob W.

    I would not be upset if he played all year in Hershey. Look at what the Red Wings do with all their top prospects. They all play for a while in the AHL and when they finally come up they contribute right away

  • Roy Schue

    Great…let’s put him on the fourth line and play him 7 minutes a game. At least we don’t need to worry about him getting into a dozen fights

  • Anon

    Flip Brouwer, Ward, Chimera, or Mojo and open up some space in the T9.

  • Barrett

    Sorry, a 19 year old kid isn’t going to lead this team to a Cup. Let him play in the AHL for a year, maybe two then bring him in as a 20-21 year old.

  • Barrett

    Kuznetsov – Burakovsky – Wilson

    “That’s a dominant 4th line right there!” – Adam Oates

  • Diller M

    very punny

  • Heh

    It can’t be dominant without Beagle as center.

  • John M

    What about strength? Kuzya is also super-skilled, but he got pushed around last year to a worrying degree. (I say that not so much from observation as from the worrying stats and his own statements).
    And let’s not get into the Connor Carrick mistake.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    “Kuzya is also super-skilled, but he got pushed around last year to a worrying degree.”

    Uhhhhhh, we weren’t watching the same games then. He was really strong on the puck, surprisingly so. Already one of the team’s best forecheckers.

  • Barrett

    “Beagle has no time for the 4th line! He’s too busy making Ovechkin a better player.” – Adam Oates

  • AloeCap10

    He doesn’t have to “lead the team” to make a difference. Contributions from the 4th line are still contributions. If he is ready and it doesn’t hurt his learning curve, I don’t see why they shouldn’t give him a chance in the big league. Hell look at was Hertl, MacKinnon, and Maatta did as teens in the NHL.

  • SeminAllOverTheIce

    THIS >> “If I want to break into the NHL I have to be stronger in my whole body,” he said. “Both so I can take and give out a big hit.”

    Love seeing that. Hopefully its not a Laich quote (meaning all talk no action).

  • Fedor

    I’d take the Hershey option with Burakovsky. Would recall him for a few (less than 10) games next season.

  • SeminAllOverTheIce

    I agree. However I wouldnt force that if he ends up proving he deserves a spot. The kid has the drive it seems. But again, I wouldnt rush him. If there’s a hint of not ready, off to Chocotown.

  • SeminAllOverTheIce

    Connor got pushed around a ton. I hope that kid bulks up big time because he seemed to be a solid skater.

  • Barrett

    This team lacks leadership. This team lacks a Stanley Cup in their trophy case. I didn’t see Hertl, MacKinnon or Maata “leading their team to a Cup”. I know they can make a difference, but that’s not what hurts the Capitals team and its not what you need in the playoffs. Also, Hertl isn’t a teenager – he turned 20 yrs old 2 months into the season.

    There isn’t a teenager on either team playing for the Stanley Cup right now. There also wasn’t a teenager on any team playing in the Conference Finals. The Canadiens, Bruins, Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Lightning, Flyers, Blackhawks, Ducks, Sharks, Wild, and Blues all lacked a teenage player on their roster. The only teams to play in the playoffs with a teenage player were the Stars (Valeri Nichushkin), Avalanche (Nathan MacKinnon) and Penguins (Olli Maatta). Only one of those players made it past the first round.

    Tanner Pearson is the youngest LA Kings player at age 21 (turns 22 in August) and John Moore is the youngest NY Rangers player at age 23 (turns 24 in November). These guys aren’t leading their teams. Guys like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene, Dominic Moore, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are leading the teams.

  • Myan

    Kuzya was strong on the puck but he didn’t hit anyone. In one of his interviews at the end of the season, he acknowledged that he needed to “get bigger” for the North American game and was going to work with a coach to bulk up for next season. I can’t wait until October!

  • Barrett

    Andre Burakovsky is 6′-2″ 188lbs at age 19.
    Evgeny Kuznetsov is 6′-0″ 172lbs at age 22.

    I’m not worried about Burakovsky getting pushed around. Kuznetsov didn’t really get pushed around, he just wasn’t a physical presence, which isn’t a bad thing because that isn’t his game.

  • Pat Magee

    He’ll like Hershey more than he thinks he will. They all do.

  • John Warner

    So should Ovechkin or Backstrom have stayed in Hershey until they were 20? Seems to have worked out well for them not doing that. If the kid is good enough and his development can best be accelerated by playing against NHL competition then he should make the team. If not, play him in Hershey and let him thrive.

  • Barrett

    Alex Ovechkin didn’t join the Capitals until the 2005-06 season. His draft year was lost due to the lockout. He came to Washington as a 20 year old #1 overall pick with 4 season of experience with Dynamo. No, it’s not the same.

    Nicklas Backstrom also came to the Capitals as a 20 year old rookie for the 2007-08 season. He played 3 seasons for Byrnas IF of the Swedish Elitserien, including one year after he was drafted. Nope, still not the same.

  • Jonah

    i think ward and chimmer should stay even if they are gonna play 4th line minutes. the guys are great personalities and i think they have the type of vet locker room presence that we need.
    also if laich is healthy he could center them as a very effective shut down/forecheck/energy line.