Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Andre Burakovsky
Position: RightWing/Left Wing/Center
Age: 20 [turns 31 Feb. 9]
Ht/Wt: 6-3, 198
Penalty minutes: 10
Average Ice Time: 12:55
Playoff games: 11
Penalty minutes: 0
Average Ice Time: 12:25
Contract Status: 2 years remaining on 3-year, $2.7 million contract [2015-16 salary: $925,000; cap hit: $894,166]
Strengths: In his rookie season Burakovsky showed why the Capitals made him their first selection [23rd overall] of the 2014 NHL draft. He possesses excellent speed, a wickedly quick release and proved in the playoffs that he can take a pounding along the walls as well. As a result, Burakovsky saw a fair share of ice time on the Caps’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and is a candidate to start the 2015-16 season there again.
Room for improvement: The reason Burakovsky did not play in more than 53 games in the regular season [and sat out three playoff games] is because Barry Trotz never completely trusted his defensive instincts and that is an important trait to have when matched with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Even though he finished with an impressive plus-12, Burakovsky had a tendency to make risky plays that resulted in turnovers and that’s something Trotz would not tolerate from a young player. By the same token, Burakovsky did an excellent job staying out of the penalty box this season [five minors] and in the playoffs [none] and has a very bright future in Washington.
Memorable Moment: Burakovsky practically won Game 4 against the Rangers by himself. One night after Trotz described him as having “boy strength,” Burakovsky flexed his biceps by scoring the first two playoff goals of his career in a 2-1 win over the Rangers, giving the Caps a convincing 3-1 series lead. [At least at the time it seemed convincing.] With 3:31 remaining in the second period, Burakovsky found space in the high slot and beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with a tracer over his right shoulder. On his first shift of the third period Burakovsky struck again, fending off the back-checking Ryan McDonagh and beating Lundqvist past his glove with a backhander.
Quotable: “I just want to go out there and show Barry that I belong on the ice and not in the stands.” – Burakovsky on April 21, after being a healthy scratch for three playoff games against the New York Islanders
2015-16 Expectations: Is Burakovsky too young to play on a top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom? Is he good enough to replace Marcus Johansson or Troy Brouwer on the second line? Is he a right wing? A left wing? A center? Those are the questions facing the Capitals’ coaching staff regarding Burakovsky heading into next season. If the Caps cannot find an experienced goal scorer for the top line through a trade or free agency, Burakovsky seems the most likely to earn a spot with Ovechkin and Backstrom and that could result in a major bump in offensive production. With a full summer of strength training and some attention to defensive detail, Burakovsky could prove to everyone he is the answer to the hole at top-line right wing.