Sunday, June 30, 2013

Focus on Prospects: Andre Burakovsky

It's draft time again! This is like Christmas in June to me personally.

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Name: Andre Burakovsky
Position: LW
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 179 lbs
Birthdate: 1995-02-09
Hometown: Klagenfurt, Austria

With the Washington Capitals' first pick of the 2013 draft (23rd overall), the Capitals followed a trend of recent years and again went Swedish. Well, sort of. Andre Burakovsky, though Austrian-born, plays for Malmö of the Allsvenskan league (the Swedish Hockey League's minor league).

Dedicated NHL fans may remember Andre's father, Robert Burakovsky, who played 23 games with the Ottawa Senators in the 1993-1994 season. Though that short time was the only NHL ice Robert Burakovsky ever saw, he spent a total of 27 seasons in professional hockey, mostly in the Swedish Elite League. Andre was born during Robert's season with Klagenfurt AC in Austria.

Something that was discussed a lot by commentators during the draft was the recent influx of Swedish players coming to North America to play in the CHL and in the NCAA, due to many 16- and 17-year-old Swedish players being "too good for junior but don't play any minutes in the big league."

Burakovsky has been a casualty of precisely that situation, and as a result, his statistics last season are very underwhelming. In 43 games with Malmö's "big" club last season, Burakovsky had just 11 points (4g, 7a). He also played 13 games with Malmö's junior teams, and fared a little better there, scoring seven points (3g, 4a).

However, Burakovsky has had international tournament success, playing in the 2013 U18 World Junior Championships for Sweden in April (he did not make the U20 club, but had five points in five games at U18) and the Five Nations tournament this past February. The Five Nations tournament was really his coming out party, as he scored one goal and two assists in four games.

He's known as a very talented skater, with good agility and speed. But his real strength is his nose for the puck. He's a guy that always wants the puck, shoots often, and shoots to score. His shot and his shot placement are major positives that scouts have seen. Even though he seems to prefer to have the puck himself (which may be just fine considering his great puck possession skills), he's still a great playmaker, has excellent vision, and skilled hands. He is the kind of player who has the ability to be a total gamechanger.

Major criticisms of his game involve his play when he doesn't have the puck, namely, in his own end. Scouts point out that his defensive skills are lacking, and need work. However, being that he still does not have a lot of weight on his 6'2" frame, the defensive side of the game may come once he puts a bit of weight on his frame. Once that happens, he may be a little more willing to throw the body and muscle his way into puck battles. Being 6'2", one can only hope that he'll use his size appropriately once he gains that extra strength.

That's not to say that once he gains weight, he should suddenly become Chris Pronger, but if Burakovsky can round out his game by adding the defensive element, he'll be a very dangerous player that will cause major problems for opponents.