André Burakovsky is back home in Malmö, Sweden. Recently he sat down in the Burakovsky’s outdoor room with local blogger Johan Svensson, a.k.a. MrMadHawk, and had a lengthy chat. The video was first published in Kvällsposten. If you missed part one of the conversation, here’s a link to part l. My translation of part ll of the conversation is below.
It’s tough to come down there, knowing that you have been scratched from the NHL. The only thing you can do at that point is to prove that you belong, and I did play really good down there.
The coach in Hershey gave me a lot of praise. I got right back up after two AHL games. It continued going so-so in the NHL. In Hershey I could relax but in the NHL I couldn’t relax and focus on playing my own game. It took some time to come back but eventually I did, I scored some more goals. It was going up and down like that for me all the time. I was down in Hershey again for maybe six games?
I absolutely didn’t want to do that but I just had to push through it. I talked a lot with Jacob de la Rose about his time in the AHL and he felt the same way, that it’s not where you want to be. So it wasn’t exactly fun but we talked a lot about it. [Ed.note: Burra and de la Rose played together on the Swedish junior national team. de la Rose was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2013, 11 picks behind Burra, and he also spent time both in the NHL and AHL this past season.]
I did actually play well down in Hershey and the next time I got called up, I continued to play good and then the playoffs started, and I think I had really, really good playoffs and Barry told me as much in the meetings after the season had ended, that he was really impressed by my play in the playoffs.
Do you have any lingering bitterness since you didn’t get go to the World Juniors and then still ended up not playing in the Winter Classic?
Of course I would have loved to play for Sweden at World Juniors, there’s no debating that. I love playing for my country, and it’s fun to get back to playing with everyone I know in my age group. It would also have been fun to compare yourself against the players you been playing with through the years to see how much I had developed compared to them. I wanted to go but at the same time I wanted to play in the Winter Classic and be part of the whole experience in Washington, since that is such an unique thing.
He [Trotz] told me the day before the game that I wouldn’t be on the ice for the Winter Classic and that obviously wasn’t fun at all. He said that he wanted to give the veteran players an opportunity to play since it was their last chance, and that I would get many more chances at playing in games like that, so that was one of the reasons. So it was just for me to hop on the bike and watch the game on TV. It was still fun to take warmups and to skate out in front of all those people. It was an experience.
You had a magic game against the Rangers in the playoffs.
Yeah, that was a pretty great night. It felt good against the Islanders too, when I got in after 2-3 games. I did well and created a lot on my own, made a lot of great passes, and Barry saw that, too, and he increased my ice time up to sixteen minutes. So I could tell he had faith in me.
About that game against the Rangers, I had felt good all series so far and I created lots of chances even before my first goal, but I couldn’t finish. But then I took the puck from Kreider along the boards, I cut to the middle of the ice and I had in the back of my head that in the pre-scouting they had said that the Rangers are leaving the middle of the ice open. I saw that Brouwer was open but I thought I’m free in the slot, I should just shoot and it went in.
It was pretty cool to score my first playoff goal in an important situation and to get to do it on Lunkan [Henrik Lundqvist] too, someone that I always looked up to him, too, since I was little and he played for Frölunda.
In the second period, Brouwer kicks the puck to me and I got an almost one on one with the goalie from the side. I just to cut to the inside while protecting the puck and get off a backhand shot. I hit it good and it goes post in. It was amazing to score a game winning goal in a playoff game.
But then you lost the series against the Rangers.
We were a minute and a half from making it to the next round in game five, I think, so it was pretty rough. The margins are very slim. It stings especially because we had a real good team and things felt good against both the Islanders and the Rangers.
We really felt that we could have beaten any team. But the Rangers really came to play in those final two games and Lunkan was standing on his head. So did our goalie but Lunkan was great and it was hard to get anything past him.
It feels like the Caps really have a bright future ahead of them though.
Absolutely. We have many good players, our defenders look strong and John Carlson has really taken some enormously big steps forward. He is one of our leading players. Also, Brooks Orpik with all his experience and he has won everything you can win. He’s a real good player and a leader in the locker room, too, and that you can add Niskanen to that. I think we look real strong on defense.
On the forward side, we have four units that really work and our fourth line is great. I think it’s top five in the league as far as ranking fourth lines goes. They are really good at grinding down opposing teams. The first line with Ovechkin and Bäckström has always worked. Our power play is real solid so we really have a base that we can build on to get far in the NHL next season.
You are going into that important second year this upcoming season. How do you feel about that?
Now I know how things work after I have tried it out for a year, I can build on that. What’s more important is that I focus on my summer workouts. We are working hard at getting me to gain some weight so I get heavier and stronger. Then I need to deliver at camp as well.
We had a good talk about how Barry views my role on the team next year and I feel excited about going into my second year.
How big are you today?
I mean how much do you weigh?
I’m 187 centimeters tall, almost 188 (6’2″), and I weigh 92 kilos (203 lbs). So I’m a bit heavier than in my Malmö days. I’m a bit bigger and stronger. Everything is going up and that’s important.
That’s pretty tall and your dad isn’t exactly tall.
Yeah, he’s like 166 centimeters (5’5″) or something. He’s really short, I really have no idea where I got it from since no one in my family is especially tall. It looks like I got all of it.
How much do you think being tall works is an advantage in the NHL?
I don’t know, If you look at someone like [Martin] St. Louis, he’s not tall and he’s still one of the best in the league. There’s a lot of small guys that still are very strong and that can hold you off, so I don’t know how much it really matters. But I like to be taller, I think it has some advantages to it. But the smaller players in the league are still very skilled and good.
You turned 20 this year so you have every opportunity to become a great NHL player. How big do you think you can get in the NHL?
My goal is to have a long career in the NHL and play until you can’t play anymore. Well maybe not quite as long my dad but…
Is he finally done playing now?
I hope so but I’m not sure. [Ed.note: Robert Burakovsky is 48 years old and played for a local Malmö team called Limhamn last season and is very well traveled hockey player, to say the least]. But I’m hoping that I can play in the NHL until I’m 35 or 37. That’s the goal.
There’s a lot of wear and tear during a NHL season but I’m assuming that you stay at nice hotels and travel well.
Yes, we always stay at the best hotels and have our own plane that only we use, and there are only first class seats on it. We travel well and the service is top-notch.
It’s amazing that you can have it that good but of course we play a lot of games, practice a lot and that does wear on your body. That’s why it’s important to really take care of your body and don’t cut corners.
It’s important to always stretch and to go in and receive treatments. I feel like I always have to sit in an ice bath after every practice and game, that way I keep my legs fresh for when it really matters. We have amazing doctors and masseurs that are around the team that help us 24/7 if needed. Recovery and getting help with recovery is really important, that you get the help you need.
[Ed.Note. It’s interesting to compare Burakovsky’s view on what type of help the team is providing for their players with what Evgeny Kuznetsov’ had to say on the subject two weeks ago to the Russian radio station 93.2 SportsFM, via RMNB: “Recovery process and medicine are at a different level, although it seems that is at a higher level in the KHL. In Russia you get a lot of help with recovery, but in the NHL you have to solve that problem by yourself. You have to find a masseur by yourself. We try to visit a sauna and a masseur after a game. That is very important after hard games. If you don’t pay enough attention to recovery, the fatigue will accumulate. You have to pay attention to your health. If you don’t take care of it yourself, nobody is going to help you.” (Click through to read all of Igor Kleyner’s excellent translation over at RMNB. )
When I first read Kuznetsov’s comment, I figured it had to do with him being a rookie. From a Nicklas Bäckström translation I did last year:
Q: “With the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, sometimes I think that some of the rookies think that everything is so easy and that they are the center of the universe.
How often do you come across kids that maybe need to be taken down a notch?
It happens, and I think that young players often…not that I’m that old…
Q: But you are not that young either.
I’m in the middle.
Anyway, it feels like the players that get drafted get talked up by media, and things like that and they feel great hearing that, of course. It’s on the older players on the team to make sure that things are done the right way, that they get started at the bottom and work their way up. When I got over here as a nineteen year old, I remember Olie Kolzig and the other older players on the team were very firm in making sure that the unwritten rules for rookies were followed.
Q: Like what?
Well, you are not lying on the massage table during your first year. You have to go outside the rink for that.
Q: Pick up the pucks at practice.
Pick up pucks, always standing at the back of the food line, always making sure that everyone else has their plates full before you take food for yourself.”
It’s odd that two players in a similar situation can feel so differently about something, unless Kuznetsov was “playing it up” or maybe I should say ”playing it down” for a Russian media outlet.
Anyway, let’s get back to Burra in Malmö, shall we.]
Do you see the World Cup in 2016 as potential goal even though you just made your NHL debut?
Absolutely. I’m not satisfied by just making the NHL, I want to continue to take steps forward. I want to be a leading player in Washington, to be a top player there. I also want to make Tre Kronor and be a good, established player there.
Elias Lindholm and Filip Forsberg have already taken that step and played well with Tre Kronor at Worlds, so maybe it’s not all that far away?
Yeah, absolutely not. I got an email from Mårts [Pär Mårts, the Swedish National team coach] and they came over to watch us play. They showed some interest which is great, obviously. Foppa [Filip Forsberg] and Elias are one year older and they have made their debuts now and I’m hoping to do the same soon.
How good are the players born in 1995 compared to the players born in 1994? Both Jacob de la Rose and Lucas Wallmark [Wallmark was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round in 2014] have signed NHL contracts.
I think it’s particularly great that Wallmark has signed, he is an amazing player and one of the smartest players I have played with. It was so great when de la Rose got his shot to play with Montreal. I talked a lot with him during the season and we helped each other. I think the 1995 crop is good and the 1994 group are amazing with players such as Hampus Lindholm, Elias Lindholm and Forsberg.
Playing with the national team can be problematic for you since you are wearing number 65. How are you planning on fixing that?
I think Erik just has to move over…Haha, I’m only kidding. I’m the kid so I probably have to change my number.
You played with #18 with the national team before so maybe you can go back to that when Erik has stolen your number.
Yeah, I would consider wearing 18.
How long are you planning on staying home in Malmö?
I haven’t really decided. I know I’m going over to Washington in September but I’m not sure if it’s early in the month or in the middle. I also talked with Tom Wilson from the team about visiting with each other. I don’t know if I’m going over to see him or if we are taking a trip somewhere together. But me and Tom have plans to do things together.
Is he your best friend on the team?
Yeah, we live together, too. He is one year older than me so we get along great and hang out 24/7, so we are real good friends.
The other Swedes are a few years older than you?
I hang out with them all the time, too, and we get along great. The three of us have so much fun together. I lived with Bäckström for a while before I was supposed to find a place of my own. With Mackan and me, it’s almost like we are brothers. We make fun of each other all the time. It’s always a great time when the three of us get together.
So is it Bäckström that is the dad then?
Bäckström is the dad and Mackan is the big brother.
Tell me more about how it is to train in a group with other former Malmö players under the supervision of Bullen [Jonas Morin]?
The training is great but we are not really training much as a group. Some of them wanted to train with Morin because they saw how much progress I made training under him. We train separately for the most part, except for when we run uphill and when we do kickboxing.
When I work alone with Jonas, what’s so great about it is that he is up close and personal all the time so it’s really hard to make any mistakes, and when I do make mistakes he is there to correct any mistakes I do right away.
Are you planning on going on ice with Malmö [the hockey team] this year?
I hope so, that they will allow me to get on ice with them. It will help me to get ready for camp.
How important is it to be ready once the camp starts?
It’s important. You don’t want to come over unprepared and look like Bambi on ice. It always feels good to be prepared.
You realize that you can become a great Malmö athlete, with both Zlatan and Therese Sjögran retiring soon. It’s time for hockey to get a king in town after all those soccer players.
I definitely think so. Soccer has been dominating Malmö long enough so I think it’s time for hockey to take over. We have a lot of hockey players that already are very good but maybe don’t get as much attention as they deserve. I hope I can become a Malmö great.
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