Sharks sink teeth into Hitmen tough guy

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Rigby Burgart has already built a reputation as one of the WHL's toughest customers.

The San Jose Sharks, who have invited the enforcer to their rookie camp, took notice of the winger's work ethic.

Or perhaps they saw that goal he scored during last spring's WHL championship.

"Yeah, maybe that was it," Burgart said with a gap-toothed smile.

OK, it probably wasn't Burgart's lone point of the post-season, nor was it the other tally he managed during the regular season.

It's the 130 penalty minutes in 50 games.

"I think they like the energy that I bring," said Burgart, a favourite among Hitmen fans and teammates.

The 5-foot-10, 207-pounder isn't going to San Jose with thoughts of trying any coast-to-coast rushes. No toe-drags or no-look saucer passes.

"I'll probably have to get into a couple of fights," he said. "They're not bringing me down there to score goals.

"It'll be interesting to see how I do against some of the older guys down there."

Just getting an NHL invite is a huge feather in Burgart's cap.

"I didn't expect to get the call," he said. "I was pretty excited when I came home and heard the message on my answering machine (in mid-June)."

While the Fort St. James, B.C., product will stick to his gritty game at Sharks camp, he is intent on being more than just an enforcer with the Hitmen this season.

He wants a regular shift on one of the top three lines.

"I concentrated more on my skating and conditioning this summer," the 19-year-old said. "I want to be more of a multi-dimensional player.

"I feel a lot better coming into camp than I did last year."

Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio said he was happy to see Burgart rewarded for his commitment.

"He's come a long way from the start of training camp last year to where he is now," Kisio said.

As for Burgart securing more icetime with the Hitmen, Kisio said he's not against the idea.

"I don't see why he can't," Kisio said. "He's lost a lot of weight from the start of last year and his skating has improved 100 percent.

"We expect him to score some goals for us this year."

Hit parade

Sophomore defenceman Austin Madaisky had a pair of goals and added an assist last night as the Hitmen beat the Kootenay Ice 5-3 in the Crowsnest Pass. Jesse Hilton also scored two goals while Matt Mackenzie scored and chipped in with two helpers.

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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