Burki grows into role

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

As if on cue, Codey Burki has taken the necessary steps to become an elite player in the Western Hockey League.

The stakes are high for the Winnipegger, who is into his third season with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Life has been a whirlwind for Burki, who in the span of five months has been drafted by the Colorado Avalanche (in the second round, 59th overall), attended a summer evaluation camp for Canada's world junior hockey team and opened the current WHL campaign at or near the top of the leading scorers.

It's safe to say Burki's confidence is at an all-time high and he's found an extra gear on the ice.

"For sure, that stuff gives you a little extra confidence," said Burki, who had 15 goals and 33 points in 23 games going into last night's tilt against the Swift Current Broncos. "You feel a little bit better about yourself and it feels like I have an extra step, for sure. My numbers are at or close to the top and I feel like I'm making an impact in every game."

Having the opportunity to attend training camp with the Avalanche and playing on a line with the likes of Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski was quite an experience, as was being in the same dressing room as Joe Sakic, the consummate leader.

"It was awesome just to watch those guys, on the ice and in the room," said Burki, who played in the Avalanche intrasquad game but didn't see any pre-season action. "Just the way a guy like Joe Sakic treats his teammates. The guy is pure class and I watched him and all the things he did. There's not too many guys like him."

Burki, a speedy centre with soft hands, hasn't signed a contract with the Avalanche yet, but he's not letting that be a distraction.

His primary goal is to help the Wheat Kings continue to challenge for top spot in the East Division, but he's also curious to find out if his name is on the list of players invited for the world junior selection camp next month in Calgary.

Canada will attempt to win a third consecutive gold medal in Sweden and Burki would love to be part of it.

"I'm just hoping for another invite," said Burki, who expects to hear the news from Hockey Canada on Dec. 4.

Wheat Kings head coach Kelly McCrimmon always believed Burki has what it takes to be an elite player.

"This year he is embracing the challenge of playing against the other teams' top players," said McCrimmon. "He wants to leave his mark in Brandon and be part of a successful team. Last year, the opportunity was there for him to be the same player and yet, I don't think he was ready for it.

"He's one year older and has got one more year with this role and he's really grown into it."

McCrimmon has been impressed with how Burki has elevated his game and has rewarded him with additional responsibilities.

"Codey has been a different player this year than at any other time in his career here," said McCrimmon. "He's just way more of a complete player, in terms of defensive responsibilities. He's killing penalties this year, which he hasn't done previously. And he's been way more consistent."


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