(Courtesy Marc Smith) Normally in the Western Hockey League, 16-year-old rookies get eased into their playing time, especially on a team with key veterans returning, but that wasn’t the case with the Moose Jaw Warriors this season.
Jett Woo and Luka Burzan, who were first round picks by the Warriors in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, played a ton and put together stellar rookie campaigns in Moose Jaw.
“I thought I had a good season, obviously some ups and downs, but overall it was good and I learned a lot,” said Burzan, who finished the season with 14 goals and 27 points in 66 games.
Burzan was originally the sixth overall pick by the Warriors in 2015. He enters the WHL with a great offensive pedigree after putting up some outstanding numbers in bantam and midget.
He said this season really showed him how hard playing at the major junior level is and that will help him moving forward.
“You’ve got to show up every night, there’s no off days in this league, so you’ve got to be ready to go, focused and show up every night and doing whatever it takes to win,” said Burzan.
“There’s always room for improvement everywhere, so I want to work on everything going into this offseason. I’m going to work on my skating and my shot, but really everything.”
Burzan played throughout the lineup during the season, jumping from the fourth line up to the top line at times mid-game. He said that taught him that he needs to be prepared to go at all times.
“I learned a lot from that and playing some different roles that I haven’t played in the past, so that taught me a lot this year and hopefully I can take what I learned into next year,” said Burzan.
“Going into next year, I want to be the best, so I’m just going to take what I learned from this year and take it into next year.”
Woo started the season as one of the Warriors’ top-four defencemen and never really dropped out of that role, seeing increased ice time as the season progressed and into the playoffs.
He finished with five goals and 22 points in 65 games and then added three assists in seven games during the playoffs.
“My whole overall game, the coaches really helped me with everything and the vets really helped me as well, all the little things that they’ve helped with throughout the year that helped me get better,” said Woo.
“I’m really grateful that the coaches played me the way that they did and trusted me. I’m looking forward to next year.”
Woo said he never felt out of his league playing such key minutes at a young age.
“How old you are doesn’t really define who you are on the ice, in our locker room everyone is the same and treated equally, so the vets and the coaches really helped everyone learn the game,” said Woo.
Woo’s strong season was rewarded as he headed off after the season ended to play for Canada at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship as an underage player. He had one goal and two points during the round robin.
Both players are expected to play even bigger roles on the team heading into the 2017-18 season and after losing out in the first round of the WHL Playoffs, they’re hungry heading into next season.
“There’s a lot of guys from this year’s team coming back next year, so we’re going to have a little fire in our belly and we’re going to try to do whatever we can to push further into the playoffs and win a championship,” said Burzan.