As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals’ upcoming 2014-15 season.
No 20: Andre Burakovsky, Left Wing/Right Wing/Center
2014-15 NHL Salary: $925,000 [$894,167 cap hit] AHL: $70,000
2013-14 stats [Erie Otters, OHL]: 57 games, 41 goals, 46 assists, 87 points, plus-46, 35 penalty minutes
Projected 2014-15 Capitals stats: 38 games, 9 goals, 11 assists, 20 points, plus-6, 16 penalty minutes
Analysis: Of all the players in the Capitals’ organization, Burakovsky’s impact on the 2014-15 season might be the most difficult to pinpoint. He was dominant in his first season with the OHL Erie Otters, where he played only occasional even-strength minutes with center Connor McDavid, whom he says could be the next Sidney Crosby. Erie’s coach, Kris Knoblauch, says he believes Burakovsky is ready to turn pro and, unlike Tom Wilson last season, Burakovsky has the option of playing for the AHL Hershey Bears. What intrigues the Capitals about Burakovsky is his slick puck-handling skills and quick release. A left-handed shooter, he split last season between left wing and right wing, but the Caps tried him at center during rookie camp and liked what they saw. “It opens up the ice a little bit for him to distribute pucks both ways and he’s played very well,” Capitals assistant coach Lane Lambert said. It is entirely possible that with a hole at No. 2 center Burakovsky will see some time there during the Capitals’ training camp and exhibition season. “I don’t know the answer to that right now,” Lambert said. “Certainly he’s getting a look there and we’ll see what happens come training camp.” If Burakovsky makes the Caps’ season-opening roster he will need to see top-nine forward minutes if the Caps want him to develop. Assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said last month that Burakovsky would need to get stronger [he’s listed at 6-foot-1, 178 pounds] if he hopes to play in the NHL next season. The safe and perhaps preferred option would be to send Burakovsky to Hershey, monitor his development, and if he’s creating offense regularly at the AHL level, call him up to the Caps sometime in January. Either way, the Caps have a nice dilemma on their hands with the talented 19-year-old Swede.