Surrey’s Luka Burzan in action with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. (Photo: Brandi Pollock/Wheat Kings)

From Warrior to Wheatie, Surrey’s Luka Burzan boasting more offence in Brandon

Burzan is eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft

By Trevor Beggs, Black Press contributor

Believe it or not, it can be a hindrance to play for a league-leading team.

Take Surrey’s Luka Burzan, for example. The Guildford teen was traded from the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, one of the best teams in junior hockey, to the Brandon Wheat Kings in January.

In his eyes, it clearly helped his development.

“I was a little surprised when (the trade) happened,” said Burzan. “I didn’t think I was going to get traded, but at the same time I kind of had that feeling. I had mixed emotions when it happened, but it was a good move for me development-wise.”

To begin the season, Burzan was centering a third line for the league-leading Warriors. He entered The Dub last season with impressive point totals for a 16-year-old rookie, but this year he was limited offensively while playing on a veteran team.

That was before the blockbuster trade.

Looking to boost their Memorial Cup chances, the Warriors acquired Canadian World Junior defenceman and gold-medal winner Kale Clague from the Wheat Kings at the WHL trade deadline in January. Burzan was a centerpiece of that deal, which also included defenceman Chase Hartje and three draft picks.

“My game has gotten better since the trade,” he said. “I’ve definitely gotten more opportunities and I have a bigger role on this team.”

• RELATED STORY: Luka Burzan, Surrey’s rookie Warrior, likes life in Moose Jaw, from January 2017.

The trade immediately boosted Burzan’s offensive numbers. In Moose Jaw, he had six goals and 19 points in 42 games. With the Wheat Kings, he already has seven goals and 17 points in just 27 games.

“The opportunities are different in Brandon compared to Moose Jaw,” Burzan said. “On Moose Jaw, there were a lot of good players on that team and I was stuck on the third line. In Brandon, I’m in the top six right now and I’m playing a lot so it’s pretty good for me.”

Even though he was traded from a team with sky-high Memorial Cup aspirations, he joins a Wheat Kings team that is no slouch either. They just clinched a playoff berth, and there’s even a chance that he could face his former team in the first round of the playoffs.

“That would light a fire under me, for sure. I would want to prove them wrong and beat them. If that’s the case, we definitely have the team to do it. We would obviously be the underdogs but we’re playing the right way and we have the guys in that locker room to get the job done.”

• RELATED STORY: Surrey’s Burzan wins silver medal with Team Canada at Youth Olympics, from February 2016.

• ALSO: Silver medals for Surrey skaters Burzan and Popowich at U17 tourney, from November 2016.

Burzan is no stranger when it comes to playing for talented teams. Last summer, he skated with a stacked Canadian squad at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, which features the best U18 hockey players in the world. Canada’s victory at the tournament stands out as a career highlight for Burzan.

“The Ivan Hlinka tournament was definitely a great experience, and it was a special team to be a part of,” said Burzan. “There’s nothing like putting that maple leaf on your chest and representing your country. Winning that tournament was the cherry on top, and hopefully I can represent my country again in future tournaments.”

His inclusion at the Ivan Hlinka tournament surely didn’t hurt his stock for this June’s NHL Entry Draft. According to the latest rankings from NHL Central Scouting, Burzan is projected to be a fourth- to sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft.

Although the prospects of playing for an NHL team are tantalizing, Burzan is just trying to focus on the present.

“I stay away from all of that and try not to pay attention to it,” said the former Valley West Hawk, of the B.C. Major Midget League. “If you focus on your game and try not to focus on that stuff then I think everything will fall into place.”

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