Photo: Maddie Meyer
Second-line winger Andre Burakovsky has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons in the NHL. Now heading into the last season of his three-year, $2.775 million entry-level deal, Burakovsky hopes to take the next step in his development. Swedish-language outlet hockeysverige describes a Burakovsy who aspires to sign a long-term deal with the Capitals — a big one, similar to what his friend Filip Forsberg did this summer in Nashville.
Forsberg has scored a combined 59 goals over the last two seasons (26 goals in 2014-15 and 33 in 2015-16). The former WJC MVP has led the Predators in points over the last two seasons (63 points in 2014-15 and 64 in 2015-16, twice the production of Burakovsky). On June 27, Forsberg signed a six-year, $36-million contract that will keep him in Nashville until he’s 27-years-old and eat up one of his UFA years.
On July 1, Forsberg could have been a restricted free agent and been offered a massive offer sheet by another team, a sticky situation which Washington must game-plan for next year with both Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
There’s a big gap between Burakovsky’s and Forsberg’s performance right now, and Andre knows it. “To get a big contract you have to score 50 points and deliver,” Burakovsky said last week in an interview with hockeysverige.se, as translated by Magnus Cadelin.
Isn’t that a lot of pressure?
“You always feel pressure,” Burakovsky said. “If you don’t play well enough, you don’t play at all. You could have a couple of bad games or not score as many points during your first or second year. But if you want to get a big contract you have to get up to fifty points and really perform. Be a key player for the team. Of course I feel a bit of pressure, but I like it that way.”
Burakovsky is one of the most talented young players in the game. However, during a 25-game stretch through October, November, and December, Burakovsky did not score a goal and tallied only three points.
“I thought a lot of what was going on and why things happened the way they did,” Burakovsky said. “When I hit those slumps, I tend to overthink things. The only thing you should do is just go out there and have fun. Don’t think at all.”
During that stretch, Burakovsky talked to head coach Barry Trotz and the Capitals’ sport psychologist.
“He told me to think that in every game I should go out there and prove something new to myself,” Burakovsky said. “I shouldn’t think about what happens, but just go out there and have fun. And it really worked, I scored right away.”
After his promotion to the second line left wing on January 2nd, only Evgeny Kuznetsov outpaced Burakovsky when it came to scoring points at even strength. Among players that were in the 18-20 age range this season, only five of them had a higher even strength points per 60 than Burakovsky including Connor McDavid, Aleksander Barkov, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, and Anthony Duclair. Burakovsky finished the season with a very good 52.2-percent shot attempt percentage and would have likely hit the 50-point plateau if given full-time on the team’s power-play unit over Jason Chimera.
In the playoffs, despite having strong underlying play, the Capitals’ second line struggled to score. Burakovsky scored once, in Game One against the Penguins.
“We had a lot of guys who underperformed,” Burakovsky said. “Me, Kuzy among others. We didn’t play the way we wanted to. Philadelphia was a tough match-up, they play really physical and it didn’t suit me or Kuz. The Pittsburgh-series went better for me, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to produce in that series either.”
After the season ended, Andre was supposed to have foot surgery. He put it off for a few weeks to play for Sweden’s World Championship team for the first time.
“I felt that I really wanted to play in the World Championship and postponed the surgery,” Burakovsky said. “The Worlds was an educating experience for me.”
“I wasn’t ready to go home, train in the gym, run uphill and hanging out at the beach,” Burakovsky continued. “I wanted to hang out at a cold rink and play more hockey.”
Translation by Magnus Cadelin.
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