Last season we ran hot and cold on Andre Burakovsky. He ended the regular season playing only 56 games and recording 12 goals and 14 assists. And he was only available for 13 playoff games in which he scored two goals and four assists.
Andre has at times played with the top six and the hope was that he was ready to assume that mantle. However, his injuries and inconsistent play pushed him out of the prize spot. He broke his right hand in February 2017 and then his left hand in October 2017.
He was out early of the playoffs after sustaining a power hit from the opponent Blue Jackets in game two of round one which required surgery to heal. It wasn’t clear if he would be back for the playoffs or how his game would look should he return. However, injuries, especially ones that involve surgery, can destabilize anyone- even a hockey player!
When he is hot, Burakovsky is a key contributor on the top or lower lines. In Game 7 of the semifinals against the Lightning, Burky scored two goal giving the Capitals the advantage which led to a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 2017/18 season was a struggle for Burakovsky. After the Christmas holidays, coach Trotz sat the Swede out against the Devils. Trotz spent a good bit of the 2017/18 season teaching “low performing” players that they had to earn their spot on the ice. Burky had a dry spell again in May and again found himself sitting out. Coach pulled him from the lineup for Game Five against the Lightning which may have lit the fire in him for game seven.
One the plus side, Burky has the speed that the Caps need. He can have really good puck possession, which leads to game winning goals. He has five from last season.
On the less-than-great side of things, he has had some issues firing the puck at the net. He seemed to have developed a hesitation to shoot- at least until he broke loose in the playoffs.
He needs to protect the mitt. And along with that, Burky needs to increase his belief in himself and take all that Reirden has to offer him as a still developing player. Hopefully he has worked on some conditioning exercises to strengthen his wrist and thus his shots.
We expect to see an increase in his consistency in the coming season. Discipline will lead to better puck control and the kind of shooting power we saw before the injuries and during the playoffs.
He has to get out of his head. We have seen this with players after an injury and after a couple, it can be harder to rebound. Andre did consult a professional this last time which seemed to help. We applaud him for doing that, and for sharing it with the public.
Burakovsky’s injuries and bench time opened the door for us to see more of Chandler Stephenson who is a versatile player. Chandler too showed his value to the team with two goals and five assists in the playoffs, although he had zero points in the final round. He ended the regular season having played 67 games with six goals and 12 assists. He and Burakovsky could be neck-and-neck at training camp when it comes to landing a top spot on the roster.
And we haven’t even talked about Jakub Vrana and what he is capable of bringing.
This upcoming season will be the real test for the 23-year old Burakovsky. Under the guidance of coach Reirden, who has a nack for building up players, he could finally have the season we anticipated. He will be a restricted free agent come the summer of 2019 and he will need to have the best performance of his career if he wants a new contract with the Washington Capitals.
How can you not like this guy??