As a sophomore with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Brayden Burke has blossomed into one of the top point producers in the Western Hockey League. The left-winger hit triple digits this season with 27 goals and 109 points in 72 games.
“I owe credit to my linemates and the good chemistry we have,” says Burke, who produced eight goals and 34 points in 42 contests last season. “All year we’ve had good chemistry. I also think keeping it simple has paid off. Just making the smart passes and doing the little things right.”
The 5-foot-10, 164-pound Burke entered this season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder following going undrafted in the 2015 NHL entry draft. He set his sights on proving all 30 NHL teams wrong for not taking a chance on him last year.
“I didn’t fully expect to get drafted last year, but it was disappointing,” he says. “I’ve used that as motivation for this season. I want to show that they made a mistake and that they should pick me this season.”
It seems Burke’s dream of donning an NHL sweater in Buffalo has a good shot of coming true. He’s regarded as a potential late-round pick by most scouting organizations, including International Scouting Services, who has him pegged 169th overall.
“He has a high skill level with good play-making ability and soft hands, and thrives on the power play where he has more space,” says ISS head scout Dennis MacInnis. “Passed over in the 2015 NHL Draft, Burke has a strong chance to be drafted in 2016 in a later round.”
The Edmonton, Alta., native’s breakout year goes hand in hand with Lethbridge’s spectacular 2015-16 season. The Central Division club finished second in the Western Conference standings with a 45-23-1-1 record under new head coach Brent Kisio after finishing the 2014-15 season with a 20-44-5-3 record.
“There have been a lot of twists and turn, but at the end of last year we got going,” says Burke, who turned 19 in January. “Brent (Kisio) has us going and the older guys came in this year wanting to have a good year.”
The Hurricanes’ power play has played a big role in the team’s success, as it sits first in the WHL with a 28.5 percentage. Burke has been the foundation of Lethbridge’s elite man advantage with a league-leading 36 helpers on the power play.
“I obviously owe credit to guys who can shoot and are finishing plays,” he says. “The big thing is getting open and getting the puck to guys who are open and moving the puck around… On the power play, Brent (Kisio) has put together a really good system and all the pieces fell into place to make it work.”
Due to Lethbridge’s earlier struggles, Burke wasn’t thrilled when the Red Deer Rebels traded him to the Hurricanes last year. But with the way everything has panned out, the skilled forward is happy the 2016 Memorial Cup hosts shipped him three hours down the road.
“When I first was traded, I thought ‘Oh no, I’m coming to this team that never wins,” says Burke. “But when I look back, it was a good move to give me a good opportunity. I only played three games before the trade and Red Deer was building for the Memorial Cup. It wasn’t that good for me because I was lower down on their team, but in Lethbridge there was more opportunity.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen