Photo: Geoff Burke
The Capitals got shellacked 6-1 by the Buffalo Sabres at Niagara Center on Wednesday, but one Caps player continued to make a case to be on the opening night roster: Swedish prospect Andre Burakovsky.
Burakovsky, who set a Swedish OHL record with the Erie Otters last season by tallying 87 points (41 goals, 46 assists) in 57 games, appears — at least to this writer’s eyes — to be the front-runner for the Caps’ second-line center opening.
The 19-year-old first-round pick led all skaters on Wednesday with five shots on net. He also hit the post on a breakaway in the first period. Through three games this preaseason Burakovsky has a goal and an assist. During Sunday’s game against Montreal, he forced a turnover by Canadians defenseman PK Subban along the boards and set up Joel Ward for the game-winning goal. In the Caps first preseason game of the year, he scored the game-winning goal.
Wednesday, Burakovsky centered Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich on the team’s de facto second line.
“He’s a good player,” an impressed Troy Brouwer said to Mike Vogel after the 6-1 loss. “He sees the ice really well. He’s a fast player. He’s got unbelievable hands.”
“He’s fitting in well,” Brouwer continued. “He looks comfortable out there. I think he’s slotted in on our team on opening day at the moment.”
On Tuesday, Caps head coach Barry Trotz told The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt that “right now, [Burakovsky’s] playing like an NHL player, yes,” Trotz said. “But I wouldn’t say he’s on the team, no.”
After Wednesday’s game, despite Burakovsky’s strong effort, a disappointed Trotz was non-committal on if anyone had an advantage for the team’s 2C position. “It’s all over the place right now,” he said.
While Burakovsky has impressed, Russian blue-chip prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has disappointed. Playing between Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, Kuznetsov found himself out of position a few times in the defensive zone. On one goal he failed to stick-check his man, which led to a goal.
On another, he took a bad route to his man behind the net, causing confusion with Chimera (not shown in the video). Seconds later, the Sabres scored their sixth goal of the night.
Who Trotz picks is anyone’s guess but at this moment, but Burakovsky appears to be the best choice.
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