Photo: Amanda Bowen
While Andre Burakovsky was one of the team’s top possession wingers last year, he will begin the preseason at center – just like he did as a rookie. Last season, Burakovsky tallied 12 points in his first 15 games, most of which he spent up the middle.
“I’m going to start at center,” Burakovsky said to NHL.com’s Katie Brown after his on-ice session Saturday. “I’ve been practicing at center, I was at center today, and it felt good. I have some chemistry with [Marcus Johansson] and [Garrett Mitchell]. It felt good out there. It’s a lot more responsibility but it felt good.”
With Nicklas Backstrom slated to potentially miss the entire month of October recovering from hip surgery, Evgeny Kuznetsov is the most likely candidate to move up and center fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin. That will leave Burakovsky, Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle, Michael Latta, and Derek Roy all battling it out to center the team’s other three lines.
“You have to be more responsible in the defensive zone than a winger and you have to think more and be all over the ice,” Burakovsky said. “You have to think a bit more than a winger.
“I’m looking forward to starting there,” he said. “I think it’s going to be good for me.”
Here are a few more tidbits from Burakovsky’s meeting with the media.
On when he first found out about the switch:
Trotz gave me a heads up that I’m going to start as a center. I started last year as a center too so I’m kind of into it, I know how to play. I’m not worried about this.
On the differences from last year’s camp:
Everything was new- coming into a new league, the best league in the world, so it was tough to come in here with a new team. You have to [get to] know the guys. So everything was like a learning process. This year, this training camp, everything feels a lot more comfortable. I know the guys, it feels good and I have a good feeling for what’s coming next year.
If he’s ready to take the next step:
Of course, me Kuzy and Willie are the young guys that can hopefully lead this team for five years, so we want to take steps all the time, we’re working hard every day to get better and to be the leaders that we want to be.
On switching from wing to center at times last year:
I’m used to being both. Of course, it was a little tough at the beginning last year but I think it went better every game and right now, I kind of know how to play [center]. Wing, I’ve been playing it my whole life so it’s not an issue to go back and play wing. The hardest part is center and wing is just natural. But I think center is going better and I feel comfortable with the position so it’s going to be good.
On his chemistry with Marcus Johansson and when to shoot vs. pass:
I think me and Marcus have really good chemistry together, we’re playing good together. We did it last year too- we found each other really good. But you always kind of know when it’s a good time for a pass or for a shot, so that’s something that’s not just for Marcus; you kind of know it for everyone.
On his excitement for his second full season:
Now I can kind of know how the league works, how it is to play in the NHL. I’m starting to get used to this. Training camp started good, I feel good out there, [whereas] last year I was kind of nervous to go into training camp but now I feel comfortable with the situation here. I’m really looking forward to the season starting, getting ready and hopefully help out the team all season.
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