By Matthew Gourlie
Luka Burzan has always been able to put up points.
Eighty goals and 131 points in 62 games in bantam, 47 points in 29 games as a midget rookie, followed by 17 points in seven playoff games. Last year Burzan netted 14 goals and 27 points in 66 games in his rookie season in the Western Hockey League.
Heading into his National Hockey League draft year, Burzan was expected to build on those solid numbers and then some.
It hadn’t worked out that way. Burzan has four goals and 15 points in 35 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“Obviously you get a little frustrated once in awhile, but I’m trying to stay positive and not worry about it too much. If you stress about it, it’s going to make it worse. I have to keep working hard and I’ll get chances,” Burzan said.
The 17-year-old from Surrey, B.C. is hoping that his first half is a case of taking a step backwards to take two steps forward.
No one gets away with poor defensive habits on Tim Hunter’s Moose Jaw Warriors. So while, Burzan’s numbers haven’t been where anyone hoped or expected, the Warriors coaching staff are not displeased with his play.
“I’m sure if you asked him he would say that he wants more goals, but I think the biggest thing with Luka is learning to play the right way in his own zone,” said Warriors assistant coach Mark O’Leary. “He’s made strides this year with his defensive responsibilities and we know that he’s going to score when he’s 18 and 19 year old, but you have to be able to be relied upon in your zone to get those minutes and get those opportunities.
“He’s making strides in his defensive zone and we’re happy with that.”
Burzan, a six-foot, 185-pound left winger was listed as a B rating (second or third round) in NHL’s Central Scouting watch list. He was invited to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Guelph on Jan. 25.
Burzan trained five times per week in the off-season to help get ready for his draft year and cracked Canada’s under-18 roster for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. Burzan was pointless at the Hlinka but felt being part of the Hockey Canada program, attending camps and heading overseas was a good experience.
“Going to U18s definitely taught me a lot about international hockey and helped me get ready for the season as well,” Burzan said. “You learn a lot of new systems and playing in different areas and that helped a lot.”
Burzan has spent most of the first half of the season playing on the third line in Moose Jaw and looks a step quicker in his sophomore season. The Warriors own the best record in the WHL and Burzan makes it clear that winning games is his sole focus.
“I’ve had to learn how to play better defensively this year and I don’t think I’ve had a lot of luck on the offensive side,” Burzan said. “If you play a good defensive game, the offence is going to come.
“I’m staying positive and not worrying about it. We have a really good team this year and we’re winning a lot of games, so that’s all that matters.
“Everyone plays their role on this team and we all work really hard. We have a special team this year, so we’re going to try to push and win a championship.”