Up in the balcony level at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, a child and his father wandered to the glass overlooking the rink and glanced at the scoreboard hanging above center ice. “I’m not sure,” the boy said, with total sarcasm, “but I think the Red Team is winning.”
By then, the score was 4-1. By the end, it was 8-3, a rout engineered by the devastating first line of Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky and Jan Urbas — an NHL lottery draft pick, Washington’s top prospect and an Olympian, respectively. In his second day playing center, Burakovsky again starred with two precise cross-ice passes that set up Vrana and Urbas for one-timers, and he also scored a goal of his own, converting a sloppy clearance into a laser at close range.
“I think he’s played great,” Capitals assistant Lane Lambert said during the first intermission, before two of Burakovsky’s points. “I think at the end of the day, he hasn’t played much center, no question. But it’s an opportunity to see him work at that position, open up the ice a little bit more for him, distribute pucks both ways. Obviously he’s played very well.”
Given his ascension since migrating to the United States from Sweden, and his clear superiority at Capitals development camp this week, it offered Washington’s staff the perfect chance to try something new with Burakovsky, who is likely to spend this upcoming season either with Hershey or the Capitals.
“There’s no question you can tweak a little bit and get an idea heading into the month of September,” Lambert said. “I don’t know the answer to that right now. Certainly he’s getting a look there right now and we’ll see come training camp.”
“He’s played center when he was younger, but on the national teams,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “With the men, he played wing. You’re always trying to experiment and find out what the best position is for the players. Andre has obviously shown here in these two scrimmages that he’s able to play, not just the wing, but center with his intelligence and vision on the ice.”
Vrana, drafted 13th overall in late June, took the second of Burakovsky’s passes and one-timed it into the net.
“I think they burned me a couple times,” said defenseman Blake Heinrich, a fifth-round pick in 2013. “I’m not used to that level of speed.”
Vrana, who dazzled during Thursday’s scrimmage with a highlight-worthy shootout goal, also scored with a close-range missile into the upper-left corner of the netting, justifying the term “sniper” that Mahoney had given him while speaking after the draft.
“Obviously he’s shown really good speed,” Mahoney said. “Yesterday he pulled away on the one breakaway, then on the shootout shot he showed his hands and the slap shot he took in the first period of this scrimmage, that was a shot that not a lot of people are going to be able to stop. I also liked in the first period when he was the first man back and back-checked and disrupted the play. He showed he isn’t just an offensive player, but a very determined young man in terms of being able to play defensively.”
Chandler Stephenson converted a whirling pass from Nathan Walker for the White Team’s first goal, while left winger Sam Warning scored in the third period. Marcus Basara, Thomas Di Pauli and Zach Sanford, all forwards, added goals for the Red Team. The two sides split overall victories in the shootouts between periods.
UP NEXT: The prospects return to the ice for their final day of camp on Saturday, when the puck drops on the last intrasquad scrimmage shortly after 10:30 a.m. New defensive acquisition Matt Niskanen is in town house-hunting with his wife and will speak during the first intermission, immediately following Washington owner Ted Leonsis.
INJURY NOTE: Right winger Brian Pinho was back on the ice after taking a puck to the upper lip on Thursday. He left that scrimmage to receive medical attention. Defenseman Garrett Haar returned from a brief sick bug. Caleb Herbert was also sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Otherwise, everyone has been healthy.