Sounds like the Caps will be going with a couple of rookie centers to start the season.
Washington coach Barry Trotz strongly hinted today that Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky will be his No. 2 and No. 3 men in the middle, behind No. 1 Nicklas Backstrom.
“They’re not just average talent,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “They’re high-level talent. Both of them are very mature. Kuz is very mature, he’s 22, and if you talk to him, he realizes his game has to adjust over here still.”
As for the 19-year-old Burakovsky, Trotz said, “He has a mature game, even though he’s really young in terms of years.”
Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, and Marcus Johansson were the three forwards vying to play center as the Caps began training camp. The latter will play on the wing, though, according to Trotz.
To be sure, the coach is rolling the dice a bit here. The center position comes with more defensive responsibilities compared to the wing. Giving one rookie that much responsibility is one thing. Giving it to two?
“I think we have enough quality people around them and with the teaching they’re getting on a daily basis from the coaches here, they’re going to adjust fine,” said Trotz, per CSN Washington.
“In the long run they’re going to get better and better as they play more and more.”
And hey, if it becomes too big a problem in the short term, well, there’s always Brooks Laich, isn’t there.