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.

  • kthxbai

    TLDR; Shut up. Give the kids a chance. Stop spewing nonsense before they even turn 20 let alone get a shot at making the roster.

  • Jack Conness

    If Vrana puts up numbers like Burakovsky did his first year in North America, I would be more than pleased. I’m extremely excited to see Burakovsky’s progression. He absolutely dominated last year.

  • ABC

    Don’t forget how much everything freaked out after that pick… I don’t get why people think drafting one 18 year old kid over another will help fix the team now.

  • Luke Anthony

    Burakovsky was my first thought when we picked Vrana. Similar players and both had very underwhelming draft years. After just one year, Burakovsky is now considered one of the best prospects in the league below like Drouin.

  • Rob W.

    After sitting on the pick for a couple days I am perfectly fine with Vrana at 13 since the overall depth of the draft was poor and there was no great defensemen after Fleury except Sanhiem or Deangelo. Let the kid develop a couple more years in Europe and get bigger. I saw somewhere he was compared to a Patrick Elias type player and I would be pretty happy with that

  • Bilal

    . Yeah, I get it, we need a D/C right now. and we drafted a Wing. But drafting a player at 13 would never solve your current needs (unless a player in the lottery drops a bunch of picks which is unlikely). I am one hundred percent fine with Vrana. If he develops well,say, ads a good 15-20 pounds, he’ll be a steal. Now for out current needs, we would need to do some trades and/or some free agent signing. It’s weird how some people look at this draft as a failure, while some are completely fine with our picks.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    It has more to do with the team’s needs several years down the road.
    You have some fans looking at two different windows.
    1.) The window that people believe the team’s opportunity to win it all is now or next year with a simple few moves, and can therefore expend some prospects or draft guys like Vrana in hopes that he will achieve his full potential within a couple years.
    OR
    2.) That the team is in need of a start from scratch and should be re-building down the middle and out from the net by surrounding Holtby with a solid blueline that brings in at LEAST three new faces from within, which was a major problem this team had in developing players since the start of McPhee’s 17-year stint.

    When you have fans looking at it from #2, it made a lot more sense to draft a guy like Larkin or McCann than to select a guy of Vrana’s calibre. That’s all.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    Read a response I put below. It’s how some people view how the team needs to build several years from now. We really ruined the development of a lot of the Centers and Defensemen that we’ve drafted in years past, and now the well is running dry.

    The other question is how exactly are the Caps going to significantly improve their blueline via trade. More importantly, what value do we have currently that will allow us to get a defenseman or two of value in return. The UFA market for defensemen is rather weak and certainly not the route for a team that is in need of 2 – 3 more defensemen to address that issue.

  • Luke Anthony

    I really don’t understand why people are getting so upset about the pick. Regardless of who they took, it would most likely be 2 seasons before they even made the roster. Needs most likely won’t be the same at that point. Rather they take best player than focus on position.

  • Amykins

    ALL OF THIS. I am sick of reading that this draft is the harbinger for the second coming of GMGM. We have new coaching staff, new front office, and we may have some new starters depending on free agency – that’s what we have to wait for (can you tell I can’t wait?). I am excited about the prospects recently drafted, but we’re just now getting to see Kuzya rock the red. Let’s be patient.

  • Luke Anthony

    I agree the team needs more center prospects, but don’t think it’s a good idea to draft solely on position and not potential. Has nothing to do with some window. Also, don’t get the whole defense thing. We have Alzner, Carlson, Bowey, Orlov, Carrick, and Djoos. Not a bad group to build around.

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

    I don’t think there’s enough information to draw a conclusion either way. It may be that the team’s management style is much like it was in the past. It might not. We don’t know yet.

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

    Yeah, I agree. The trade market is going to be way more important than what happens in free agency. Unless BMac ends up being one of those guys who spends like a madman on washed up goalies on July 1.

  • Maddie

    I view that if we can’t trade or draft many decent defensemen, that we should just go and kidnap them from other teams and make them join the caps

  • Sarah

    THANK. YOU.

  • Ash

    Regarding #2, I’m not really on the side that thinks the team is in the need of a start from scratch, but whether or not I’m right about that (I could be totally wrong, it happens a lot) I think adding one solid top four defenseman to the Capitals does significantly change their blueline.

    I would be very surprised if the FO weren’t aware of the major concern that we’re sliding out of Ovechkin and Backstrom’s prime years and is in win-now mode over the window of the next few years.

  • Roy Schue

    I would prefer we get him over to North America ASAP so he can adjust to the game over here.

  • Sarah

    I love that someone else is finally on the same page with me! I’ve been talking about #RecruitingWithDuctTape, but nobody listens. Now I’m starting to think blackmail might be better, though, since by definition a big defender can probably put up a pretty good fight.
    Maybe photoshop some “compromising photos” of some of the Bruins D, and force them to ask for trades? Or hell, maybe we can get some real photos. Let’s deploy our Russians to Boston and get them to drink the B’s under the table, then see what happens. #ItCouldWork

  • RESmith

    How about something in the middle where you are drafting and developing talent to supplement and faze them in with the players you already have so that there is a smoother transition as you lose older players to either declining ability or salary cap issues? What Boston is starting to, Detriot continues to, and New Jersey used to do? I’ve seen too many teams through the years go through the five or six year boom and bust cycle where they either draft well or get many high picks and become contenders and then trade away their prospects for veterans to put them over the top. Eventually the window closes, and since they’ve traded away all their blue-chippers they have nothing to fall back on and are forced to blow everything up in order to gain high draft picks again.

  • Rob W.

    Id like for him to play over here as well but Im pretty sure he is under contract for a couple more years

  • tpr04

    The difference with Burakovsky and Vrana is that, while they are similiar, Burakovsky was a no. 23 pick and Vrana was a no. 13. The Caps reached a bit with respect to Vrana, whereas they did not reach for Burakovsky.

    I also think they reached throughout this draft – in the 2nd and 3rd round. And they missed an opportunity to trade up in the 2nd round to get Barbashov, which would have been a steal for a position they are very much in need of.

    This was not a good draft. Getting Vrana at 23 would have been good. If that’s what they intended to do, they should have tried to trade back and get him. Doing so could have netted a no. 2 pick, meaning Vrana and Barbashov instead of just Vrana.

    Sure, it’s easy to be a Monday morning QB, but, honestly, BMac looked very much like a rookie GM, reaching when there was no need to.

  • Off-hand winger

    Wasn’t Forseberg also a draft day dropper? And, they dropped him like a hot brick when they had the chance. It’s an interesting draft strategy, but it doesn’t necessarily pan out.

  • Owen Johnson

    #RecruitingWithDuctTape is pretty good. I’ll have to use that one.

  • Sarah

    Yeah, forget the blackmail photos. I’m not even sure what the hell that would involve, considering they do this voluntarily:

  • Sarah

    “I suggest ya put on a tie.”

  • CapNMac

    Their strategy seemed to be to go with players with physical talent (an area that cannot be improved by coaching) and whose weaknesses were areas that can be improved by coaches. Vrana has the talent, now lets get him some development time and good coaching. He may have been a reach, I don’t know where other teams had him slotted on draft boards, but I am cool with them grabbing him if he was BPA to them. He certainly looks to be extremely talented.

    Same with the goalie in 2nd round – supposed to be physically talented, just weak in technique. If Korn said he was the guy, GRAB HIM!
    And 3rd round picks have around a 20% chance of having a career of 200 games or more in NHL. They had Walker already in Hershey to get a good up close look at and if they think he has more than a 20% chance, I am cool with them using a 4th round pick that has around a 13% chance, to trade up for him.

    Having said that: I really wanted Mckeown in the 2nd round… but all in all I have faith in 5 years we will be happy with this draft.

  • CapNMac

    … also: as far as reaches go – it only takes one other team to decide that they want the guy in that area as well, and it goes from being a reach to a situation where you either take him there or say goodbye to him.

  • tpr04

    I understand that. But that’s true of everyone you target. You have to have a sense of where he’ll go. You don’t always get what you target, but you should try to make the most out of it. It’s not like Vrana is filling a huge hole. In terms of your criteria of having the skill set, that’s true of virtually anyone going in the 1st round.

    The point is you trade back and there’s a good chance you still can get him. If not, you have the comp you got and you still get a talented 1st rounder. With respect to the goalie, I hope it is a situation where Korn saw something he liked. Still, that guy wasn’t going to get selected in the 2nd round by anyone else, based on what I’ve read.

    These were reaches. It doesn’t mean they are bad picks and won’t work out. They very well may. The point is you make the most of your spot and you typically don’t do that by reaching.

  • CapNMac

    You can pretend you know for a fact that they were reaches, but you simply do not know that. You don’t have the inside info to know where teams had him slotted. Vrana could have gone 14 if we passed on him, or 15, or 20, either way he would be gone when we picked again, so if he was our guy – you need to take him.

    Just because some derivative lists say he was slotted 19-22 doesn’t mean an independent scouting staff for a team doesn’t have him slotted higher or lower. We simply do not know.

    And I can hear the howls from the negative Nellies if someone else grabbed Walker in the late 3rd or early 4th and he turns into a good player: “We had him in Hershey and these idiots couldn’t even see what they had and let another team draft him! Fire the morons!” and of course these are the same guys calling him a reach now and acting like the FO is incompetent.

    And no they are not all strong in uncoachable skills and weak in coachable skills. Some are just the opposite, and some are tweeners, and of course the cream of the crop is strong in both.

  • tpr04

    I’m not pretending to know anything for a fact and didn’t suggest that. Obviously, we each have our opinions. Vrana is probably 2-3 years away from the NHL, which is true of virtually everyone taken after the top 5 or so. He’s not a lock. Based upon your view, teams would never trade back. But teams do, and often, and it’s typically because they have targeted a player who conventional wisdom suggests will not be taken until further in the round.

    I can only go by what I see, same as you. Although I do disagree on the 1st round – by its very nature (18 and 19 year olds), they are almost all developmental, meaning they have the tools. No one is drafted in the 1st round based upon grit in the absence of talent.

  • Tadd

    How much does the North American hockey media know about the Hockeyallsvenskan and the SuperElit? There’s a huge difference between the two. It’s like calling a high school player up to the AHL and expect him to post a point per game. It’s not gonna happen.

  • GMGMNeverBreaks

    I’ve seen a decent bit of bellyaching on various sites about us reaching for Vrana and/or not trading back to pick him. If the Caps scouting team had him rated 13th or even higher, though, (which seems reasonable based on the fact that they drafted him there and not someone else) would you really rather trade back in the hope that you can get him later (and add another pick)? Furthermore, do you really think that GMBM didn’t actually consider doing so?

    It seems highly implausible that GMBM didn’t at least consider it, so for the sake of being charitable to GMBM, I’ll list two reasons for not trading back:

    (a) For every buyer, there must be a seller. We don’t know what the trade market was like for the thirteenth pick. Other teams would only trade for a higher pick if they think the player(s) they really like will be gone by the time they pick or else they think there will be a drop-off in talent at a point before they pick. It’s hard to know who other teams liked, but consensus before the draft seemed to be that there was a significant drop-off after the top-5 and another significant drop-off after the top-13 or so (Kasperi Kapanen and maybe Dylan Larkin being the only real droppers of that group – and nobody traded up to pick them). If other scouts really felt like prospect quality dropped off around the time the Caps were picking, they wouldn’t trade their first rounder and another valuable pick or asset so they could draft a prospect with as many question marks as the prospect(s) they’d draft if they stood pat. All the reasons for not trading up that have been put forth here and elsewhere count against *other teams’* moving up.

    (b) In a draft such as this where the guys between 13 and 20 have as many question marks as the prospects this year were reported to have, draft order will be less likely to follow numerical rankings of prospects. Teams will pick the players whose risk/reward profile, style, skillset, potential, etc. they’re most comfortable with not simply those prospects who have the highest average ranking from all sources.

    Using RMNB’s sources for calculating an average, the players picked 13-20 had the following average rankings:
    Vrana: 23.3 (13)
    Honka: 27.7 (14)
    Larkin: 12 (15)
    Milano: 14 (16)
    Sanheim: 23.3 (17)
    Tuch: 14 (18)
    DeAngelo: 33.3 (19)
    Schmaltz: 26 (20)

    We don’t and most likely won’t know if any of the other teams would have taken Vrana had we traded back (assuming there even was a willing partner), but all it takes is one team to like him regardless of ranking and he’s gone. If Ross Mahoney and the scouting staff says Vrana’s their guy and they’d rather have him than another guy available some picks back plus a later-round pick, I’m not going to roll the dice and trade back just because Vrana *might* still be there and *even if he’s not* a comparably ranked player will still be available there about whom McKenzie and other scouts the organization doesn’t employ say a few generic positive and negative things in as many sentences.

  • Roy Schue

    1 year left I believe but I think there are ways around that.