When the puck dropped at the Capitals’ first developmental camp scrimmage on Thursday evening, their top prospect was smack in the middle, crouched down with his stick wound up, ready for the faceoff. For the first meaningful time in his career, Andre Burakovsky lined up at center, a directive from Washington coaches.
“It was actually the first time I played center,” Burakovsky said, “but it was good for me…I felt good out there, actually.”
The Red-White intrasquad game ended in a 4-4 tie, with six goals scored during the three 25-minute periods. The two others apparently came from the shootouts done between periods. Burakovsky, for his part, accounted for two of those regulation tallies and started for the Red team at first-line center alongside Slovenian tryout invite Jan Urbas and 2014 first-round selection Jakub Vrana.
“I don’t care where I’m playing,” Burakovsky said. “I just want to be out there and playing. I don’t care if I play D, center, it doesn’t matter.”
His second goal was one of the night’s most impressive, a solo act in a two-on-one breakaway. Burakovsky snagged the puck near center ice and handled it from there, slowing down and waiting patiently before firing a hard, high wrister that found the net.
Vrana also impressed with a nifty shootout goal past Rasmus Tirronen (Merrimack College), sliding backward like a drifting street car before whipping a backhand into the goal and drawing impressed oohs from the crowd.
“He’s got great speed and great hands and he can pass the puck,” Burakovsky said of Vrana. “I think he looked really good today out there. It made it hard for all the guys to defend on us. We played good together.”
Right winger Cole Wilson (University of British Columbia), left winger Chandler Stephenson (Hershey), right winger Riley Barber (Miami University) and defenseman Eliot Antonietti (Geneve) also had goals. Urbas, Wilson, forward Zach Sanford (Waterloo in USHL), right winger Miles Koules (Medicine Hat in WHL) and center Braden Pimm (Northeastern) scored during the shootouts.
The Capitals have two more intrasquad scrimmages, both scheduled for 10:30 a.m. over the next two days. Burakovsky, who likely holds the best shot among the developmental camp prospects at cracking Washington’s roster this season and debuting in the NHL, expects the positional experiment will continue.
“I was centering the lineup, so I guess I’m just going to keep playing center,” he said. “Yeah, sure.”