The injury to Nicklas Backstrom has perhaps had no greater impact on any one player on the Caps than it has on Andre Burakovsky. Backstrom's return will not just affect which line Burakovsky will play, but also which position.
With Backstrom expected to miss the first four to five game of the season, Burakovsky will begin the season at center on the second line. When Backstrom returns he will take back his place on the first line and Evgeny Kuznetsov will move back to the second.
But with Jay Beagle and Michael Latta expected to center the third and fourth lines respectively, what will happen to Burakovsky?
"I haven't really thought about that yet," Burakovsky said. "We take one game at a time."
Burakovsky entered his rookie season last year as a center as the team tried to develop both Kuznetsov and Burakovsky in the middle. The plan proved ambitious and Burakovsky was eventually moved back to wing. Now, Burakovsky is once again slated to start the season in the middle, but again, is expected to be moved back to wing.
"I don't really know what's going to happen, but I'll probably move back to wing," Burakovsky said.
Brian MacLellan, who was adamant over the summer that he felt Burakovsky had the skills to be a great center, also conceded that moving Burakovsky was a likely outcome once Backstrom returns.
"I think we're going to keep the options open, but I would assume that's where he'd go," MacLellan told reporters on Tuesday.
Given Burakovsky's skill set and that the team clearly sees potential for him to be a center, the move may come as a surprise to some. The differences of the two positions and the responsibilities that come with each, however, requires a bit more development from the 20-year-old forward before he can really embrace a move to center full time.
When talking about the position, Burakovsky said "you have a lot more responsibility. You have to be a lot more patient in your own zone. You always got to help out the D in the middle and give them a support guy. It's a lot more responsibility."
The patience and responsibility that comes with the position is just not something Burakovksy's is ready for at this point.
"I think I like winger a little bit better because I'm a guy that likes speed," Burakovsky said. "I just want to take off with the puck and at center I just have to be a little bit more patient and slow it down a little."
You can't blame a 20-year-old for struggling to develop patience, but it's something he knows he needs to and can handle in the future.
When asked whether he sees himself as more of a wing or a center he said, "Right now, wing. Future, center."
But while there is every indication that Burakovsky will be moving back to wing, the point was stressed that no final decision had been made just yet.
"We didn't make any decisions about that yet, but had a little bit of a discussion with [head coach Barry] Trotz about it and we'll see," said Burakovsky.
"We'll probably deal with that at the time," Trotz said. "Let's just get Nick back."
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