If Burakovsky indeed sits, it comes at a curious time. Monday, the Capitals decided to keep the 19-year-old rookie from participating in the World Junior Championships, held later this month in Canada. The choice itself brought little surprise, but since Burakovsky hasn’t logged more than 11 minutes since Nov. 22, Trotz was asked whether the Capitals weighed the likelihood of top-six ice time for Team Sweden during the under-20 tournament against uncertain and inconsistent deployment in the NHL.
“We do, we do,” Trotz said. “We’re in a process too where we’ve got a stretch of games where they’re going to be very competitive. I don’t think we’re going to stay healthy right through all those and we want to have our best players in those situations. We’re in the business of winning and we want to have the ability to use our best players to win. Andre’s one of our best players when it comes to young guys in the organization. We have high expectations for him.”
Provided Team Sweden advances past the group stage, which begins Dec. 26, Burakovsky would have missed at least three games and at most four. The Capitals conclude a road-heavy December with post-Christmas visits to the Penguins (Dec. 27) and Islanders (Dec. 29), then host the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at Nationals Park on New Year’s Day.
But with 13 healthy forwards on the active roster, one extra per game, Trotz said the Capitals preferred to keep Burakovsky both as insurance against injury and to keep close watch on his progress.
“There’s still lots of stuff Andre can learn being with us and practicing with us and all that, being in games,” Trotz said. “I’ve got to give him a little more ice time, or we have a little plan every time he’s not in, things that we want him to watch, things like that. He’s still in the development stage. He’s going to be a terrific player, he’s going to be a big piece of our future in terms of that, especially he’s going to be a center iceman, that’s our goal for him.”
Saturday night at Verizon Center, Burakovsky played 8 minutes 35 seconds as the fourth-line left winger in a win over Tampa Bay, skated no more than four shifts in any period and did not register a point for the 10th time in his past 11 games. He still leads the Capitals with 2.07 points per 60 minutes this season.