2015-16 Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (#19)
Date of Birth: January 1, 1997
Place of Birth: Edmonton, AB
Ht: 5’10” Wt: 165 lbs
Position: Left Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 second-year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking: 109th (June)
- THW Alternate: unranked (June)
- THW War Room: 116th (May)
- Future Considerations: unranked (June)
- ISS: unranked (June)
- Bob McKenzie: unranked (June)
- Craig Button: 46th (June)
Brayden Burke is not a particularly large man. He’s quite generously listed by the Western Hockey League as 5’10” and 165 pounds, and he’s probably not quite that tall. In the 2015 NHL Draft, Burke’s size was probably a factor. In the 2016 NHL Draft, it’s likely to be an afterthought. The big difference is that Burke has become a player with a tremendous deal of offensive swagger, and a player that really represents the big turnaround that the Lethbridge Hurricanes have undergone over the past year.
In 2014-15, Burke suffered an early lower-body injury and was traded from the Red Deer Rebels – the club that drafted him in the 7th round of the 2012 Bantam Draft – to the Hurricanes with Devan Fafard for a 5th round pick and Riley Sheen. Once he got healthy, he ended up scoring a brisk pace, amassing 34 points in 41 games. Burke was not selected in the NHL Draft that year. He turned to Lethbridge, and went absolutely score-crazy. He matched his previous season’s point total by November 26 (in his 24th game of the season). He ended up third in the WHL in points and tied for first in assists with Regina’s Adam Brooks.
Typically, when you see overage players go score-crazy in their older years it’s because they’re physically much more mature than the other, younger junior players. That’s not the case with Burke, who’s still not big. A lot of his scoring his reliant on power-play time – nobody got more points with the man-advantage than he did – but he still ranked among the league’s leaders in even-strength scoring. He’s got a good shot with an accurate, quick release, but he’s at his best as a puck distributor. He sees the ice really well and when he’s given some time and space to operate – like on the power-play – he’s absolutely lethal.
Is Burke a top-shelf talent? He’s not overly large and sometimes he can’t bury his chances. But he may be an ideal complementary player; rarely out of position and adept at puck distribution. If he’s put with good finishers, he could be an excellent asset for an NHL club.
NHL Draft Projection:
Burke could potentially be a late second round or early third round selection, but most likely he’ll go closer to the fourth round.
— Matt Battochio (@mattbattochio) March 5, 2016
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 1, 2016
- Extremely good passer.
- Strong offensive zone awareness.
- Good acceleration and skating mobility.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- He’s not big, and can get knocked off the puck fairly easily.
- Defensive zone awareness could use a bit of work.
- Relies upon having a good amount of time and space to execute offensive plays.
So long as his development doesn’t stall out, Burke likely projects as a second or third liner (and a power-play specialist) at the NHL level.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive 8.5/10, Defensive 7/10
Burke was named a second-team Eastern Conference All-Star following this past season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.