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Great run for Burke with Warriors

Marc Smith

(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw)  Brayden Burke may not have joined the Moose Jaw Warriors until late in his Western Hockey League career, but he was a Warrior through-and-through.

“Coming to Moose Jaw changed my life,” said Burke following Monday’s Game 7 loss to the Swift Current Broncos.

“Coming here they taught me how to be a professional and how to do things the right way and without them I definitely wouldn’t have an NHL contract without them. I can’t thank the brass, the coaches and my teammates enough because I really enjoyed my time here and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The Warriors acquired Burke from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in a trade early in the 2016-17 season. Burke was coming off a 109-point season with Lethbridge in 2015-16, but things had soured during the early part of the next season, which facilitated the trade.

Burke blossomed in Moose Jaw, registering 59 points in 46 games to end last season and then exploding for 113 points in 61 games this season for the Warriors, combing for a unbeatable 1-2 punch with Jayden Halbgewachs.

Burke’s competitive drive was a big part of the Warriors’ success this season as he served as the engine that drove the team’s league-leading offence during the regular season.

“Bringing Burke in here after having some tumultuous times in Lethbridge and having him mature like he did as a person and player was great to watch,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter.

“Brayden really learned from his time in Lethbridge and the real thrill for us was having his parents come in (Tuesday) and thank us for the job we did in helping their son become the player that he wanted to become.”

This year’s Warriors’ team was loaded with talent, but the most consistent performer from start to finish was Burke. He had another gear right from the start of training camp and carried that through into the post season where he led the Warriors with nine goals and 21 points in 14 games.

General Manager Alan Millar said they credit Burke for putting in the work to have the season he did.

“We spent a lot of time with Brayden, I thought we built a very good relationship over the year-and-half-plus that we spent together. We talked about the game, talked about what he needed to do and talked about just becoming a pro,” said Millar. “He deserves all the credit, he got over that hump and was one of the best players in the league this year and I’m really happy that he had the success that he did this year.”

The numbers that Burke put up over his time in the WHL are staggering as he finished with 253 assists in 238 games. He had 85 goals during his career, including a career-high 31 this season, and finished with 338 points overall for 1.42 points per game.

He played games for Red Deer, Lethbridge and Moose Jaw during his four seasons in the WHL.

“I’m really happy with my time in Moose Jaw and it’s been one of the best years of my life for sure,” said Burke. “I’m just honoured that I got to play for the Warriors and be a part of this team this year and this great organization.

“We had a great group of guys, great coaching staff and management and they welcomed me in and showed me how to do things the right way and I grew as a player and person, so I can’t thank the team and everyone around the team enough for that.”

The Warriors had their season come to an end on Monday with a 6-0 loss to the Swift Current Broncos in Game 7. It was an early end to what the Warriors had hoped would be a championship season.

“You can’t really put it into words, this just isn’t the way that we wanted to go out,” said Burke. “We’re just sad that we couldn’t give them a good game and play the way that we could, but just nothing left in the tank.”

Burke was a part of the best group of 20-year-olds that the Warriors have ever had. All three overagers — Burke, Halbgewachs and Tanner Jeannot — topped 80 points, while Burke and Halbgewachs both hit over 110 points during the regular season.

All three also signed NHL contracts over the course of the year.

“It was definitely really special to get all three of us with NHL contracts by the end of the season, which is pretty rare and pretty amazing, so to be a part of it with those guys is a surreal experience,” said Burke.

Burke will now move onto his professional career after inking an entry level contract with the Arizona Coyotes during the season. He said he’s excited about the next step.

“This is the biggest summer of my career ahead now, so I’ve got to put in the work and I’m just excited to go home and get everything ready for this season and hopefully I can make a push as soon as possible,” said Burke.

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