Just how much can one disappointing season overwrite raw potential and big performances in the past? That's the question many teams will have to ask themselves when it comes to Andre Burakowsky, a talented and highly skilled puck-possession left winger who got caught between the junior league and men's league in Sweden and never really was able to truly leave his mark on the season in 2012-2013.
Burakowsky -- or Burakovsky, depending on where you look -- has been in the Malmö system in Sweden since he was 14 years old and has constantly played above his age level. Playing 10 games for Malmo in the SEL at just 16 years old, he was seen a game-breaking winger with incredible skill who had the ability to completely take over a game when he set his mind to it.
This past season, unfortunately, he appeared to regress a bit -- at least when it came to production. He was left off of Sweden's World Juniors team, despite his strong international tournament resume, and received limited minutes for Malmö in the SEL while being held off of the J20 team. The result was an uneven season that left many scouts disappointed, although the question remains whether his struggles were due to limited opportunity rather than a true drop off in skill or ability.
What we do know is that Burakowsky is one of the best pure puck handlers in this draft and a tremendous playmaker from the wing with considerable puck-possession skill. He can dangle the puck with the best of them, and chances are he'd be a lock for a top ten pick should he had not endured such a disappointing season this past year.
Scouts are also very split on just where he fits in this draft. Some mocks have him going anywhere from the 15th pick in the first round or falling all the way to the second round. There is also some disagreement over just what sort of player he'll be; I've read some scouts that call him a great passer and pure playmaker, while others describe him as someone who passes up the chance to move the puck in order to use his skill to try and do it all himself. There also seems to be disagreement about his work ethic on the ice.
Everyone agrees, however, that he'll need to add considerable strength to his 6-1, 178-pound frame.
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus - Ranked No. 13
Burakowsky struggled to get ice time in the second-tier Swedish pro league at the beginning of the season, but his fine form in international play has been encouraging. One NHL executive said that Burakowsky's skating is comparable to some of the top Swedes to come out of the draft recently. He gains efficient power from his stride, and he has a great top gear. His skill level allows him to regularly make above-average to high-end dekes and passes. He has the look of a skilled puck possessor with every shift. The extra element of his game is his grit, and one NHL source described his work ethic as equal to his skill level. He has the ability to impact the possession game with his skill and smarts, and he has a knack for pressuring the puck away from opponents. In order to fulfill his potential, Burakowsky will have to get stronger. There are also significant question marks around his decision making, as some scouts indicate he can be a bit of a puck hog. There are some kinks to correct, but his game has great upside, and he can be a top-line player at his peak.
International Scouting Services - Ranked No. 16
The son of former NHLer Robert Burakowsky, Andre is a terrific puck possession player. Burakowsky has the ability to really wow with the puck. He has excellent range with his stick, is strong on the puck and very quick in his hands and feet, making him very dangerous with the puck. While not the most intent forechecker or defensive player, when the puck is on his stick the game can change in an instant. He can execute at extremely high speeds and win space from the outside or by cutting right down the gut. He is not easy to contain one on one, has tremendous acceleration and very good offensive timing and patience. He has yet to prove how consistently impactful he can be offensively.
The Hockey News Draft Guide - Ranked No. 17
Burakowsky had one of the most difficult draft years of any player not to sustain a major injury.
The son of Robert Burakowsky, an Ottawa Senator in their early days, Andre played sparingly for Malmo this season and barely made a dent offensively. "He's had a tough year," one scout said. "It's tough for those kids who are on the cusp of the big team but too good for the junior team. They go on the road trips, but don't play many minutes."
The situation was exacerbated by the fact he was in contract talks with the franchise and not guaranteed a job next year. With that turmoil in the background, Burakowsky didn't make Sweden's WJC team, but had a good showing at the Five Nations. "He's a talented player," a scout said. "His skills from the blueline in are great. Good hands, shot and scoring ability."
When he's on, Burakowsky can change the pace of a game and create space for himself thanks to his speed.
Burakowsky is No. 12 -- the play begins at the 1:50 mark.
...and that's about all I can find for good highlights.