Capitals 2013 first-round draft pick Andre Burakovsky was in the middle of answering a question from a reporter at the conclusion of last week’s development camp when 2012 first-round draft pick Tom Wilson snuck up behind him and pulled a hockey sock over his head.
If Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were the Capitals’ Young Guns a few years ago, Wilson and Burakovsky represent the Next Wave.
Last week, Wilson, 19 and Burakovsky, 18, roomed together, drove to the rink together and shared a few meals at night.
“He learned me a lot of things, like eating macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and cinnamon rollers,” Burakovsky said. “They’re really good, too.”
As teammates on the ice, Wilson played the right side and Burakovsky played on the left, providing a glimpse of the Capitals’ future.
“He’s a good kid,” Wilson said of his weeklong roommate/linemate. “I just tried to show him the way.”
Like Wilson, who added more than 10 pounds since being drafted last summer. Burakovsky will need to gain some muscle before getting a chance to crack the Capitals lineup. Taken with the 23rd pick of the draft, the Swedish left wing measures 6-foot-1, 178 pounds.
Burakovsky’s next big decision will come this week or next, when he decides whether to play for the Erie Otters of the OHL, who made him the fifth overall selection of the Import Draft, or to return to Sweden and play for Allsvenskan, where he managed just four goals in 43 games last season.
“If I go home I’ll have not so big responsibility with the team,” he said, “like third line or something, more like backcheck and forecheck. So I don’t know.”
Last week marked Burakovsky’s first real taste of playing on a smaller ice surface.
“With a smaller rink it’s faster hockey,” he said. “You don’t have so much space and time. I think I’ve learned a little, but it’s going to be better and better if I move over and play here. I think the language is getting better, too. I learned a lot.”
Burakovsky said he will return home and discuss his options with his family and his agent before informing the Caps of his decision.
“They may think it’s good for me to play in Erie,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he believes Burakovsky has the tools to become a goal –scorer in the NHL, but needs time to develop physically.
“Burakovsky’s really smart, really skilled,” McPhee said. “But he has to work on strength. We knew that and that’s why I mentioned it when we drafted him. He’s not going to be a guy that steps right in. He needs a few years to develop.”
Wilson, who was taken 16th overall in 2012, said he’d be “honored” to someday play alongside Burakovsky with the Capitals.
“That would be pretty cool, working to get the puck for him and getting him some room,” Wilson said. “This is just the horizon for him. He’s got so much skill and he’s got a huge future ahead of him.”