Washington Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored 14 goals after New Years last season in 45 games, good for nearly 30 goals at an 82 game pace. He did this all without being a regular on the power play and playing just over 14 minutes a game. Now he’s likely got get a renewed chance at racking up points on the man-advantage. Last season only one of his 17 goals came on the power play. He finished second in even-strength goals, behind only 50-goal scorer and Rocket Richard winner Alex Ovechkin.
Burakovsky, 21, started the season on the power play, but lost his spot to Jason Chimera, who had four PP goals and five PP assists, after 14 games due a poor start, which included time in the press box. In Burakovsky’s first 32 games of the 2015-16 campaign, he had just two goals and six assists.
“In the beginning you just want to do everything so properly and the right way,” Burakovsky said of first full season in the NHL. “[I] was trying to bring everything full speed. Sometimes you just slow down the game and think a little bit more than you act. That was kinda what I did at the end [of last season] there. When I had the puck I felt more comfortable. I could hold it a little bit more and find an open lane for my teammates. I think it worked out pretty good for me.”
Now with Chimera gone, Burakovsky has an “inside track” to take the net front spot on the second power play unit, according to Capitals associate coach Todd Reirden, who is acting as the interim boss while head coach Barry Trotz is an assistant coach for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey.
“I’ve been really impressed with Andre’s start to camp,” said Reirden. “I know this summer, the work that he put in. I think that he is probably the favorite at this point to move into that spot. He just has the same type of speed that Chimera has, but I think just a little bit more finish in different areas of the game. Just a young player that’s just got a huge upside.”
Burakovsky echoed his coach’s comments on Sunday, noting he now weighs 205 pounds, up seven from the start of last season.
“When you’re in front of the goalie the other team’s D want to just box you out and push you out of there,” Burakovsky said. “[I] got a lot stronger so I think that will be perfect for me.”
Burakovsky, though the same height, is still far less bulky than Chimera, who signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract will the New York Islanders this offseason. Chimmer is one of the faster players in the NHL, but Burakovsky is nearly as fast and is looking to create offense on the rush.
“I think my whole game is about speed and I think I’m a fast player so that shouldn’t be any problem,” Burakovsky said.
Compared to Chimera’s infamous hands of stone, Burakovsky adds high-end skill to the position. It makes you wonder why Burakovsky won’t be on the half wall on the PP instead. Nonetheless, the young Swede believes his skills will be an asset in front.
“[T]he guy on the goal line really he needs to have a little skill too to be in position,” Burakovsky told me. “He’s got to find the backside and the guy in the middle too. You can’t just have anyone out there.”
Andre’s promotion has been a long time in the making.
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