Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana slid during their draft years but got selected in the first round by the Caps (Photos: Getty Images)
Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana have a lot in common. Both are high-octane offensive wingers who made names for themselves by putting the puck in the net. And both were drafted out of Sweden after impressive showings at the U18 World Championships.
But they have one more thing in common: both saw their stock drop significantly during their draft years after struggling to adapt to the professional game in Sweden.
Burakovsky was a point-per-game player in Sweden’s major junior league, SuperElit, one year before the Draft. In the next season, he had become a regular on the senior team roster with the Malmo RedHawks of Allsvenskan. The transition wasn’t easy. The forward who was advertised as an offensive machine finished with just 11 points in 43 games in the second-tier Swedish league. Those struggles were well documented. “While he’s a well rounded player, there have been too many instances where he simply did not show up to games or was invisible for long stretches,” HockeyProspect.com’s Draft Guide noted. “Burakovsky had one of the most difficult draft years of any player not to sustain major injury,” The Hockey News echoed. “[Burakovsky] hasn’t quite lived up to expectations thus far,” The Scouting Report concluded.
Similarly, Vrana hit the point-per-game plateau in SuperElit as a 17-year-old. He bounced back and forth in his draft year, and, while he still posted impressive numbers in juniors, he was unable to convert that into big-league success with Linkoping of the SHL with just three points in 24 games. He got better as the year went along but still saw a significant drop in the rankings, even though his excellent U18 World Championships performance kept him ranked in the first round. His play against the grown men of the SHL highlighted his flaws.”His development seems to be flattening out”, said Corey Pronman of ESPN. “Self-centered player who only uses his teammates when he wants or has to,” McKeen’s stated.
These are some eerily similar reports. In this graph, the lines showing the draft rankings of two players follow the equally identical paths.
The data in the draft ranking axis represents average ranking of three sources: ISS, Hockey Prospect, and Bob McKenzie’s rankings.
While the jury’s still out on both players, Burakovsky got back his offensive mojo while playing for the Erie Otters in the OHL and silenced much of the criticism finishing seventh in the league in points per game and third among players under 19 years of age, behind only Canadian rising star Connor McDavid and the new hope of the Calgary Flames, Sam Bennett.
Vrana is under contract with Linkoping for another year. A scenario in which he comes to play in North America can’t be ruled out and it could lead to a similar renaissance. His rights are not held by any CHL club. We will learn if a team will make an effort to poach him on Wednesday when CHL Import Draft will be held.