Andre Burakovsky began the 2015-16 campaign as Washington’s second-line center, but he was just there to help fill the void left by Nicklas Backstrom. So now that Backstrom has returned from his hip surgery, where does that leave Burakovsky?
With the Capitals third line clicking, Burakovsky went all the way down to the fourth line on Saturday. The 20-year-old isn’t likely to remain in that role and in fact might not have regular linemates for a while.
“Bert’s pretty good offensively,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told the Washington Post. “He could move up a little bit, but he’s going to be a little bit of a swing guy probably for a little bit here. When I’m looking for a little more speed or offense, I’ll probably be throwing him up.”
He might specifically find himself getting the odd shift alongside Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin in place of T.J. Oshie, who Trotz wants to be careful about overworking given the fact that Oshie also logs big minutes in penalty killing and power-play situations.
While Burakovsky began the season as a center, that’s not his natural position and occasionally filling in for a right winger like Oshie would likely be more in his comfort zone. Not that Burakovsky is likely to be particular as he tries to claw his way up the depth charts.
“That’s something I’m trying to fight for every day, to get up in the lines a little bit here,” Burakovsky said. “Obviously, now it’s fun to have [center Chandler Stephenson] on my line, the two youngest guys on the team playing together, so that’s kind of fun. But obviously, I want to get up in the lines here and play with the top-six guys here.”