With the 21st selection in this year’s FanSided NHL Mock Draft, Editor In Leaf has selected Andre Burakovsky from Malmo in the Allsvenskan (Swedish second division).
Ultimately, the pick came down to offensive upside. Yesterday morning I had my heart set on selecting Edmonton Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar with the pick, but I had doubts about his offensive game. Lazar scored 38 goals but only finished with 61 points in 72 games in the WHL last season. Lazar has a good chance of becoming a solid defensive forward in the NHL, but given the other options available, I felt it was necessary to go for a more offensively inclined player.
My attention then turned to big winger Anthony Mantha from Val d’Or of the QMJHL. His 50 goals in 67 games last season are impressive, as is his above average skating and size at 6-foot-4. Alas, those rascals over at Blades Of Teal poached Mantha with the pick right before ours yesterday afternoon, causing me to scramble to find another option. That’s when I took a second look at Burakovsky.
The Swedish left-winger first caught my eye when I read about him a few days ago on Corey Pronman’s rankings at Hockey Prospectus. Pronman has him ranked 13th, much higher than most other outlets. Here’s what Pronman has to say about him:
“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.”
Last September, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie had Burakovsky ranked seventh out of all 2013 Draft prospects. Burakovsky was coming off a solid, point-per-game (42 in 42) season with Malmo’s junior team, and had scouts drooling with his speed and possession skills. By January of this year, he had dropped to 14th in McKenzie’s ranking. The reason for that is he only had seven points in 33 games for Malmo’s senior team, and players like Valeri Nichushkin, Alexander Wennberg and Frederik Gauthier had burst on to the scene with impressive starts to the year.
Burakovsky didn’t do much for the rest of the year, only playing ten more games for Malmo’s big club and modestly contributed with four points. Reports suggested he was only given limited ice time, which isn’t all that surprising for a 17-year-old playing with grown men in Sweden’s second best professional league. Despite his Malmo struggles, Burakovsky thrived with Sweden’s national junior team, putting up six goals and six assists in 10 games. He scored four goals and five points in five games at the Under-18 World Championships, although his team couldn’t advance past the quarterfinals.
I doubt there’s any player who has fallen so far in so many rankings as Burakovsky, and I’m not sure it’s justified. Unlike most of his counterparts in North America, Burakovsky cut his teeth in professional hockey playing against players much older than him. Sure, he has some flaws in his game, but which 17-year-old prospect doesn’t? The one thing you can’t teach is skill, and Burakovsky has it in spades. He’ll probably need some time to refine his game in Sweden for at least one more year, but given the Leafs’ considerable depth on the wings, there’s no rush to get him here.
Here’s how Burakovsky ranked on various outlets around the web:
Corey Pronman: 13
Craig Button: 58
Bob McKenzie: 14
Ryan Kennedy: 27
The Calgary Flames are now on the clock.