Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.
In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.
Today’s player: No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
Throughout this countdown, we have talked about players who need to produce more to help the Caps make up for the offensive production they lost in the offseason. But really there are two players the team will count on to make up the gap left by the loss of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson. The first is Jakub Vrana who will need to not only make the team this year, but play in a second or third-line role. The second is Andre Burakovsky.
A hand injury forced Burakovsky to miss some time last season, but even so, 12 goals in 64 games is not the level of production the team is expecting from such a talented player. It's prove it time for the young Swede.
Burakovsky knows that. He scored two goals in the opener last season, but was held scoreless for the next 26 games. Finally, after going without a point for seven straight games, head coach Barry Trotz pulled him from the lineup as a healthy scratch. Burakovsky got the message and scored a goal and an assist in his first game back. That message better carry over to this season considering the Caps will need him to take on a much larger role.
The good news is that Burakovsky showed he could handle a top-line role in the playoffs. With Alex Ovechkin dealing with a knee injury and the team facing elimination, Trotz moved Burakovsky to the top line. He responded with three goals and one assist in three games. Whether he is on the top line to start the season remains to be seen, but he will almost certainly be in the top six.
Johansson and Williams combined for 48 goals last season. If Vrana is able to make the team, a reasonable goal for him would be around 15 goals. That means the Caps will be looking for Burakovsky to contribute 20-30 goals next season. That is a lofty expectation for a player whose career-high is 17, but he has the talent to do it. He needs to live up to that potential this season.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.
— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker
— No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
— No. 17 Christian Djoos
— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov