Burzan diversifying his game in draft season

Derek Neumeier2018 Draft Center, Features, WHL

Photo by Robert Murray | WHL

Moose Jaw Warriors forward Luka Burzan has always had a knack for scoring goals.

Coming up through the youth hockey ranks in British Columbia, Burzan’s scoring proficiency was evident at a young age. The progression of his talents eventually led him to the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver, a well-regarded hockey program that helped to develop current NHLers Kyle Turris and Evander Kane, among others.

He hasn’t slowed.

After a scintillating 2014-15 season for the Winterhawks that saw him score 80 goals and 131 points in 62 games, Burzan was selected fifth overall by Moose Jaw in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.

But now, in his second season with the Warriors, Burzan is learning the finer details about what it takes to play at — and to succeed at — hockey’s highest levels.

The Warriors are currently one of the best teams in the WHL thanks primarily to their electrifying offensive game, which is led by Tampa Bay Lightning first round pick Brett Howden, a trio of overage forwards — Brayden Burke, Jayden Halbgewachs and Tanner Jeannot — and another former high Bantam pick and North Shore alumnus in 18-year-old Justin Almeida

With so much veteran firepower at forward, Burzan, a player that possesses plenty of speed, puck skills and tenacity, has spent most of this season on Moose Jaw’s third line, not getting the same ice time or opportunities that he was once accustomed to.

It’s helped his development.

“Growing up I always played on the top line and stuff like that,” Burzan said. “But obviously with our team, we have a very good team this year. I’m just happy to be on it, to do whatever I can to help my team win. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it.”

Warriors assistant coach Mark O’Leary recognizes that the place Burzan finds himself in now is unfamiliar territory.

However, he says he’s impressed with how the 17-year-old Surrey native has adjusted.

“He’s scored at every level. It’s different not going over the boards every other shift or every third shift,” O’Leary said. “He understands the process. For him to be a player at the next level he has to be able to play in different situations. I think he’s handled it well.

“We know Burz is going to score goals, especially when he’s 18 and 19 in this league. But it’s playing that 200-foot game where I think he’s come a long way.”

Helping Burzan along in his development are those same veteran forwards ahead of him on Moose Jaw’s depth chart.

With over 1000 combined games of WHL experience between the five, there is plenty of available experience to draw from.

“With them, they’ve been in the league for a while. I think just not taking a night off, that’s the most important thing,” Burzan said.

“You have to show up for every game and every shift that you go out there for.”

Burzan, 68th in Future Considerations’ Fall Ranking, has four goals and 15 points in 35 games this season.

While some talent evaluators may wish those stats were higher, Burzan’s coaches believe that the numbers don’t tell the whole tale, and that his individual skills will help him to develop into a special player in the future.

“His speed and his willingness to take pucks to the net,” O’Leary answered. “I don’t think anybody on our team does it as well as he does. That wide speed, he makes the D-man turn and carries him to the net on his back a lot of times. He’s fearless in and around the net. He puts his nose down to the ice and jams away.

“I think he’s going to score a lot of goals that way.”