Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
If there is one word to describe former Capitals and current Colorado Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky’s time in Washington, “roller-coaster” would perhaps be the appropriate term to use. From a momentous debut to a disappointing end, the former first-round pick seemingly experienced it all during his five seasons in Washington. In this piece, NoVa Caps takes a moment to pay tribute to the player affectionately known most commonly as “Burky”.
Drafted by the Capitals with the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Burakovsky was touted for his offensive potential as a top-six forward in the future. And after making the Caps’ Opening Night roster for the 2014-15 season, the then-19-year old forward scored his first career goal on Opening Night (i.e. his first career game). In his first season in the NHL, Burakovsky played in 53 games, scoring nine goals and recording a promising 22 points, with a plus-12 rating while averaging 12:55 of ice time a night for then-Head Coach Barry Trotz. Burakovsky’s second campaign gave even more hope that he was developing into the top-six forward envisioned when the Caps drafted him, as he recorded 38 points (including 17 goals) in 79 games played, averaging six more seconds of ice time a night.
The next two regular seasons would see Burakovsky struggle with inconsistency, a lack of confidence, and injuries (combined with a number of healthy scratches from the lineup) that derailed his attempts at building upon his sophomore season, and he put up just 60 points in 120 games, while being relegated to a bottom-six role. However, Burakovsky’s best moments in a Capitals sweater came during the team’s run to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018. After played just 56 games during the regular season, Burakovsky had a productive postseason, recording six points (two goals, four assists) in 13 games played, with his two goals coming in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two tallies helped propel the Caps to a 4-0 win to move to the Stanley Cup Final, where they downed the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
Burakovsky’s final season in the District saw him fail to carry the momentum from the postseason into the regular campaign, and while he played in 79 games played (his first 70-game season in three seasons), he recorded just 25 points in the regular season and just two points in seven playoff games. With the Caps facing a salary cap crunch and a qualifying offer to Burakovsky carrying a minimum salary of $3.25 million, the Capitals traded Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two draft picks in 2020 and a forward, Scott Kosmachuk, the team did not re-sign.
While he showed flashes of the offensive ability that made him a first-round selection, Burakovsky was just never able to find his niche nor his game in five seasons in Washington. And while he never was able to conjure that ability during the regular season, he came through when the team needed him most in the 2018 Stanley Cup run. For that, and the off-ice antics and contributions he provided, the Capitals, their fans, and the DMV area will forever be grateful. And through four games so far this season, Burakovsky is on a roll, having scored two goals (both game-winners) and recording four points with a plus-2 rating while averaging 13:28 of ice time a night (the second-highest of his career). Perhaps the pressure he felt to perform in D.C. is no longer there, or perhaps his confidence is back at 100%. Whatever the case, he will take the ice at 5:00 P.M. as an opponent, but the role he played in the summer of 2018 and his off-ice contributions won’t be forgotten by the D.C. faithful anytime soon.
Thank You Burky!
By Michael Fleetwood