Deemed the deepest draft since 2003, the early returns of the 2013 NHL draft is certainly looking like they could live up to the hype. Two players from that class will get another go at it when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals take on each other.
After missing the first handful of games this season, Jonathan Drouin is slowly starting to show the offensive skill set that made him such a highly prospect. Taken third overall, Drouin took a different route that the majority of the top picks did not take that year – he spent another year in juniors.
Seven of the top ten draft picks in 2013 played in the NHL right away, Drouin was one of the three who did not. He used that time to hone his all-around skills – making the shift from wing to center with his junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads.
Drouin played wing the year before to fellow top prospect and eventual first overall pick, Nathan MacKinnnon, and despite heading back to Halifax without him he would put up even better numbers than his draft year.
After posting 105-points (41 G, 64 A) with MacKinnon, Drouin scored three more points in three less games – finishing with 108-points (29 G, 79 A). Drouin has showed some of that playmaking ability early on in limited playing time, with 10-assists in 20 games played.
Like Drouin, Andre Burakovsky is learning a new position but he is doing so at the highest level. Playing winger last season with the Erie Otters, Burakovsky made the shift to center after making the Capitals out of camp.
Also like Drouin, Burakovsky benefitted from having an elite talent playing on his line. The favorite to go first overall in the upcoming NHL draft, Connor McDavid served as Burakovsky’s center for the Otters.
But now at the next level, the Swedish born teenager is showing that he has plenty of his own talent to boot. The Capitals have been in dire search for a permanent answer behind their top center, Nicklas Backstrom and despite not having any NHL experience; Burakovsky was able to beat out another first round Capital to win the second line job – Evgeny Kutnetzov.
As with any young player, especially teenagers in their first NHL season, struggles will be expected. Drouin has seen himself a healthy scratch on several occasions this year, a victim of a deep team as well and getting familiar with the NHL game (namely playing without the puck) but with Vladislav Namestnikov being sent back to the AHL, it could open things up for more and consistent playing time.
Burakovsky, on the other hand, got off his NHL career on tear by registering points in four straight games and in seven of the first nine overall. Not really talked about as a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate early on – the Swede threw himself at the top of the list with his month of October.
The month has been trying however, as the young Capital has only registered a single goal in his last ten games – eventually leading to him being a healthy scratch for the first time in his career this past Saturday.
In a Washington Post article, Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz had this to say about his young center,
“I think Burt’s on a little bit of a downward turn here,” Coach Barry Trotz said “It’s okay. Pull him out of a game, let him reset, if you will. I think it’s always good to get the urgency level up and the detail level up with any young guy or anybody really. He’s no different than someone else. He’s been good.”
Now his struggles have brought up the question on whether or not they should allow Burakovsky to participate in the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships tournament, as he was named to the preliminary roster for team Sweden.
If there is one thing they isn’t a question, it is the skill that both of these players possess. As with every down, there comes an up and when they are up both Drouin and Burakovsky have shown the potential to be two of the more dangerous players in the league.
Anthony covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Hockey Writers. He is also currently a Featured Columnist for Last Word on Sports, and has held editorial positions on multiple Fansided websites and the now defunct The Farm Club.