You can count the number of players returning. You can count the number of days it took for them to return. But in order to count on the Seattle Kraken taking the next step past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can’t discount the value of top six offense.
A prominent figure in that equation returned to formal practices for the first time in seven months.
Andre Burakovsky, who missed the remainder of last season with a torn groin, took his first formal reps in a practice setting on Thursday at Kraken Community Iceplex. His surgery to repair the issue was followed, he said, by three setbacks in recovery, where he felt he was “a couple of practices away” from returning to game action.
“I missed being on the ice with these guys, and competing,” said Burakovsky. “Just being part of it and being around the locker room. Being a teammate. It feels really good to be back and I’m really excited for it.”
Burakovsky said two months ago he returned to 100 precent recovery while undergoing “a lot of work” for rehabilitation in Sweden. Travel was restricted, he said, rearranging any summer plans with his girlfriend, Johanna Scortea. But Burakovsky can now move freely without any restriction, mentally or physically.
“Finally, I can skate and do proper exercising in the gym,” said Burakovsky. “I’m not worried about anything right now, I’m ready to go.”
It’s that confidence which could be a big player in the retention of offense the Kraken boasted last season, largely by committee. En route to a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in their second season, they carried the league’s fourth most potent offense and Burakovsky was their leading scorer at the time of his injury, with 39 points in 49 games. Armed with one of the league’s most potent wrist shots, his 13 goals were well on the way to approaching a career-high 22 he scored just one season prior, a Stanley Cup championship campaign with Colorado.
Those attributes will be nothing short of valuable for a team looking to maintain its top six core, and a valuable half-boards option for the power play.
“Nice to see him, it’s been a long road back,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“He watched his team go through a push to get into the playoffs but find some success in the playoffs. That’s hard as a player. We all know ‘Burkie’ was doing everything he could to work his way back in. That wasn’t meant to be last year, so he’s done the work over the summer.”
Burakovsky took reps in the camp’s late morning session and shifts in an early afternoon scrimmage with prospects Carson Rehkopf and Andrei Loshko, a bit of a shift from last season’s typical linemates, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Wennberg. Though day one line combos can be taken with a grain of salt, he still returned to the environment he longed to be a part of, forced to the sidelines to watch the playoff triumphs.
He still remained an encouraging cheerleader.
“I was really proud of the team in what they were going through, winning games and competing,” said Burakovsky. “At the same time, you want to be a part of it. I was really proud of the guys, for the way they played, and it was fun to watch. It was a good run.”
The Kraken will open the pre-season with a split squad matchup against the Calgary Flames on Monday, hosting the home side for a 7pm PT face-off at Climate Pledge Arena.