NHL Prospect Hot List: Washington’s Andre Burakovsky

Andre-Burakovsky

Playoffs in the junior leagues are in full stride, while developments at the world under-18s have been intriguing to say the least. Team USA lost its first game to the Swiss before rebounding, while the Czechs are flying high and Canada is doing just enough to stay up top. Here’s a look at some of the top NHL prospects playing around the world right now.

Andre Burakovsky, LW – Erie Otters (OHL)

With 10 goals and 13 points through 12 playoff games, it goes without saying that Burakovsky is doing well for Erie, but you really have to see him live to appreciate the magic of the winger. Burakovsky loves to control the puck and uses his slick hands to weave through traffic, where a lethal wrister can then be employed to finish off the play. Considering he played against men last year in Sweden, it’s probably no wonder he is flourishing against players his own age now.

“Of course it was a little harder back home,” he said. “It’s older guys that know what they’re doing so you have to be really smart. Here it’s more physical; you have to keep your head up all the time and go a bit faster. And the hockey over here fits me better; I like the smaller ice.”

Though the Otters find themselves in the teeth of a devastating beast known as the Guelph Storm, Burakovsky has been great all year for Erie, despite being unsure about coming over in the first place. The fact world junior teammate Oscar Dansk was already on the squad helped the transition.

“It’s been great to have him here, he has supported me a lot,” Burakovsky said. “It was hard in the beginning when I came over – new guys, new language, new country. It’s great to have someone to speak Swedish to, not just English all the time.”

Will the dazzling winger be back in Erie for an encore? It’s tough to say right now: He’s obviously an advanced player and because he was drafted out of Europe, he does not have to return to major junior if he doesn’t make the NHL next season – he could go to the American League. The Washington prospect has kept in touch with the Capitals, but nothing is set in stone yet.

“They just wanted me to focus on these playoffs,” he said. “I’m pretty close to getting a chance; we’ll see what happens.”

Drafted 23rd overall by Washington in 2013.

Kevin Fiala, LW – HV 71 (Swe.)

One of Switzerland’s best players at the under-18s so far, Fiala is dynamic in the offensive zone and has put up six points in the team’s first three games. “Lots of similarities to Willie Nylander,” said one NHL scout. “High-end skill, top-end creativity and anticipation.”

Draft eligible in 2014.

Dominik Masin, D – Slavia Praha (Cze.)

Masin is getting a lot of buzz on a Czech team featuring bigger names Jakub Vrana and David Pastrnak thanks to his play at the under-18s. The captain of the squad – which surprisingly sat first place in Group B through four games – has been effective on the blueline and can play a variety of roles. Draft eligible in 2014.

Tyler Bertuzzi, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL)

Guelph has battered Erie thanks to a wrecking crew of talent up front, including Bertuzzi, who is making his presence known through dogged forechecking and grit. Todd Bertuzzi’s nephew has 14 points through 10 games. Drafted 58th overall by Detroit in 2013.

Five more Guelph forwards to watch: Kerby Rychel (Columbus), Scott Kosmachuk (Winnipeg), Jason Dickinson (Dallas), Robby Fabbri (2014 draft), Brock McGinn (Carolina)

 

Mason McDonald, G – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

He lost a shootout to Russia, but McDonald has still been solid for Canada at the under-18s, giving up just one even-strength goal in three appearances. “Big southpaw – quick, good glove,” said one NHL scout. “Down on his knees a lot. Has a lot of good attributes and his issues are correctable.”

Draft eligible in 2014.

Jake Virtanen, LW – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

One of Canada’s most effective forwards early on at the under-18s, Virtanen brings a great blend of skill and physicality. His versatility will help him at the next level. “He can play on a lot of lines,” said one NHL scout. “He’s strong, skates like hell and he competes.”

Draft eligible in 2014.

Louis Belpedio, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Team USA’s captain at the under-18s, Belpedio is a toolsy, two-way defenseman who can play in a lot of situations. The Miami University commit has good hockey sense and is a right-handed shot, which is coveted by many NHL teams. Draft eligible in 2014.

Tyler Sheehy, RW – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

The University of Minnesota commit was a point-per-gamer during the regular season and has seven points in three playoff games. Waterloo takes on Sioux City in the conference final. “Smallish player with a nose for the net,” said one scout. “Has an incredible knack for getting the puck in traffic, kinda like a Jason Pominville. The puck seems to follow him around.”

Draft eligible in 2014.

Frederik Gauthier, C – Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Just signed out of Rimouski in the Quebec League, Gauthier is a big, two-way pivot who was remarkably consistent in the faceoff circle during the playoffs, winning 56 percent of his draws and doing almost as well during losses as he did during victories. Drafted 21st overall by Toronto in 2013.

Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

The Western League player of the week showed just how valuable he can be at the world juniors, where he was Canada’s best forward. Now he’s hitting his stride in the playoffs for the Oil Kings, where he has five points in his past three games. Drafted 17th overall by Ottawa in 2014.