Lethbridge’s Brayden Burke uses draft disappointment as extra motivation

Kelly Friesen
Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Brayden Burke notched 109 points in 72 games last year. (Cindy Adachi)
Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Brayden Burke notched 109 points in 72 games last year. (Cindy Adachi)

Lethbridge Hurricanes winger Brayden Burke didn’t expect to don a sweater on the 2015 NHL draft floor. He only suited up in 42 games as a WHL freshman that season with eight goals and 34 points on his stats sheet.

The 2016 NHL draft was a different story. He broke out in 2015-16 as one of the WHL’s most prolific playmakers on a resurged Hurricanes club. A testament to his success is how he led the league in assists with 82 while adding 27 goals in a 72-game season.

“I tried to keep it simple and play my game,” Burke says on his breakout year. “I played with some great linemates and had the confidence of my coach and team behind me. We had a lot of success on the power play and came together as a team.”

Nonetheless, despite his phenomenal numbers and elite playmaking abilities, the 5-foot-10, 163-pound Burke found himself in a familiar spot on draft day. He was passed over for the second straight year by 30 NHL clubs.

“I didn’t know how the draft would shakeup,” says Burke. “I didn’t go (to Buffalo) and knew it’s hard to know what to expect. It was obviously disappointing, but I moved on.”

In addition to his numbers, Burke’s NHL Central Scouting ranking played a role in the belief that the odds were in his favour at the recent draft. The scouting service pegged him 63rd overall among North American skaters.

“My agent told me not to look too much into those rankings,” says the 19 year old. “It’s great to be ranked, but they aren’t the guys who are drafting players. I tried not to take much out of those rankings.”

The Edmonton, Alta., native isn’t letting the disappointing news rattle him. Instead, he’s using it as “extra motivation” to continue to enhance his level of play on the ice.

“It’s obviously extra motivation for next year,” he says. “You can’t change the way you play the game too much because that’s what got you to where you are. I’m going to focus on the little details. I want to improve all aspects of my game and just continue on what I did last year. I believe I still have time and just need to continue to work hard.”

Despite not donning a sweater in Buffalo, Burke received a handful of NHL rookie camp invites following the draft. He decided to commit to the Calgary Flames even though he grew up an Edmonton Oilers fan.

“We decided based on general interest and who contacted us right away about it,” says Burke on choosing which NHL camp he would attend. “They called quicker and it felt like the right fit after looking into who teams drafted and how they play the game…. I grew up an Oilers fan in Edmonton, but now I’m a Flames fan.”

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen