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Capitals could start season with two rookie centers

by NHL.com Staff / NHL.com

The Washington Capitals could start the season with two rookie centers, coach Barry Trotz told CSNWashington.com

The Capitals have Evgeny Kuznetsov on the second line and Andre Burakovsky on the third line. Kuznetsov is No. 3 on NHL.com's Top 60 prospect list for the 2014-15 season; Burakovsky is No. 14.

"I don't have any problem with them starting [at center]," Trotz said Wednesday before boarding a flight to Buffalo for the Capitals' preseason game Wednesday at the Buffalo Sabres. "They’re both high-level talents. The biggest thing is going to be patience, to let young guys do what they’re capable of doing. I can be patient.

"I think we have enough quality people around them and with the teaching they're getting on a daily basis from the coaches here, they're going to adjust fine. In the long run they're going to get better and better as they play more and more."

Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are part of a competition for the No. 2 and No. 3 center spots. One of the competitors, Marcus Johansson, is moving to the wing, Trotz said. The other possibility is Brooks Laich.

Kuznetsov was the Capitals' first-round pick (No. 26) of the 2010 NHL Draft. According to CSNWashington.com, he could start the season on the second line between Laich and Troy Brouwer.

Burakovsky, the 23rd pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, likely would center a line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward, and that leaves Johansson, who played on the top line last season, as a fourth-line left wing.

Nicklas Backstrom will center the top line, flanked by Alex Ovechkin on the left and likely Eric Fehr on the right.

"I really think with the way [Kuznetsov] and Burakovsky [are playing], it will be best for Marcus to be pulled back to the wing," Trotz said.

Kuznetsov had three goals and six assists in 17 games with the Capitals last season, but Trotz said he sees the adjustment to full-time NHL center as an ongoing process.

"[Kuznetsov] still has to adjust here," Trotz said. "He's putting in the time. He's on the computer watching the top centers in the League and he's out there working with [Backstrom] on faceoffs and asking questions."

Burakovsky had 41 goals in 57 games last season with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, his first season in North America. Not only is he getting used to the NHL pace, he's learning a new position; Burakovsky mostly has played left wing.

"Burakovsky has a mature game and he's getting the same thing from people helping him," Trotz said.

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