It doesn't look like Andre Burakovsky will be suiting up for the Erie Otters this season.
The second-round pick of the Washington Capitals, 23rd overall, in the June draft was taken by the Otters with the fifth pick in the CHL Import Draft last week. Almost immediately, word began to spread in Burakovsky's native Sweden, that he was less than thrilled about being selected by a team that has missed the OHL playoffs for two straight seasons.
On Monday, Burakovsky's North American-based agent, Kevin Epp, made it official that his client would be staying home to play in Sweden.
According to Andre Burakovsky's agent, Kevin Epp, the Capitals first-rounder is not coming over to play for Erie.
— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) July 8, 2013
Kevin Epp on the Burakovsky situation: "We had indicated to teams in the CHL (before the Import Draft) that he would be staying in Sweden." — Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) July 8, 2013
An attempt to reach Burakovsky's Swedish agent, Patrik Aronsson, was unsuccessful.
Erie Otters general manager Sherry Bassin, said he had been told by a number of NHL teams that Burakovsky had intended to play in North America this season. Bassin has yet to speak with Burakovsky or his agent, though he said he people in Washington's organization told him they were pleased by Erie taking him in the import draft. They were happy about the opportunity Burakovsky could have to play with Otters star forward Connor McDavid -- a player expected to be one of the top picks in the 2015 NHL draft.
"If that agent doesn't want him to play with one of the best players in the world (McDavid) and have the opportunity to score a zillion goals with his talent, never mind the Erie Otters, then he should reconsider the advice he's giving," said Bassin.
There was talk that Burakovsky had planned to play for another Ontario Hockey League team, and that he was disappointed in being selected by the Otters.
"The only thing I've heard is that his father said that he had a deal with another team," said Bassin.
That allegation was reported by a Swedish hockey blog, in which Burakovsky's father, Richard, a former NHLer, was quoted as saying his son had been expecting to be selected by the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. The Otters took Burakovsky with the fifth-overall pick, while the Spitfires eventually took Sweden's Jacob de la Rose with the 11th-overall pick.
I can confirm that we have had requests for Windsor, the same team that now instead chose Jacob De La Rose said Robert Burakovsky, who came home to Sweden today. [via Google Translate]
The Canadian Hockey League recently changed their rules for the import draft in order to make the process more of a level playing field.
"The whole nature of the draft is to bring a sense of equality," said the longtime OHL GM. "I know that Andre had told a number of NHL teams that he wanted to come to North America, so for me that's enough. I'm not going to be treated like a second-class citizen (at the import draft)."
The new rules prevent teams from trading import picks and import players once selected. Each team is allowed to carry a maximum of two import players per team. There are however, certain provisions in the rules for trading import players under certain circumstances -- like in the event an import player is returned to a team from the NHL.
Bassin says no matter what other teams do in terms of setting up deals at the import draft, he's going to take the best player available.
"This isn't free agency," said Bassin. "This is a draft."