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

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

HOCKEY

‘Memorial eCup’ games to keep junior players plugged in, including Kelowna’s Burzan

WHL veteran’s pro dream is on hold as he skates in Kelowna

Like other WHL players during the COVID-19 pandemic, Luka Burzan is just trying to keep his legs moving.

The Surrey-raised sniper, a Brandon Wheat Kings veteran and Colorado Avalanche draft pick, is skating twice a week at a rink in Kelowna, where he now lives.

“Nothing too crazy,” Burzan said. “I’m skating with a lot of pro guys like (Damon) Severson, who plays for New Jersey (Devils), and (Brent) Seabrook, a lot of people know him, and a lot of other guys, too, and there’s really no better place to get better than skate with guys like that.”

Still, he’d rather being play meaningful games, but the WHL season has been delayed until the first week of January, at the earliest.

“I’ve been hanging out with family and some friends, a tight circle, and honestly it’s a little boring without hockey right now,” Burzan admitted. “I feel like I’m missing a big part of my life not being in Brandon and playing, and those guys are like my brothers. It’s been weird.”

One activity that will keep Burzan busy is the new Memorial eCup presented by Kia, a 64-team eSports tournament featuring all 60 CHL clubs, plus four “distinguished hockey personalities” as guest participants.

The “NHL 21” video-game tournament will be played from Nov. 28 to Dec. 17 on the Sony PlayStation 4 system, with Burzan chosen to represent his Wheat Kings.

“I was asked by the team if I wanted to do it, and I thought it’d be fun and a pretty cool experience, kinda cool,” Burzan said. “I’ve been missing some competitiveness, so trying to win something like that would be really good, and I think it will be a cool experience for sure.”

The online action is designed to keep junior-hockey fans engaged at a time when on-ice games aren’t happening.

Burzan said he plays the video game “a fair amount, and I think I should do pretty well, but I don’t know, there are a lot of players involved, more than 60 of us, so I’ll try to make it as far as I can,” he said. “It’ll be hard to win, and some luck will be involved. They’ll have it on Facebook Live and Twitch, so the fans should love it, and it’ll be fun. They’ll get to know the players a bit more, their personalities, so it should be good that way.”

Viewers can tune in via CHL.ca/MemorialeCup and on social media using the hashtag #KiaCHLeCup.

• RELATED STORY, from 2019: Rocky Mountain high: Surrey’s Burzan picked in NHL draft by Colorado Avalanche.

In June 2019 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Burzan was selected in the NHL Entry Draft by the Avalanche, 171st overall. At the time, the left-shot centre had spent the previous three seasons in the WHL with the Wheat Kings and also Moose Jaw Warriors.

Now 20, the Surrey Minor Hockey Association product, who grew up in the Guildford area, had hoped to have a good showing at Avs training camp this past September, but COVID ended those plans.

“They’re really good, and check on me all the time,” Burzan said of the Denver-based club. “I asked them about camp but right now they have no idea how it’s going to look, and hopefully we’ll know soon,” he said about the coming NHL season, targeted to start in January. “With the borders being closed, that’s a bit of a problem. There are so many cases down there.”

Burzan said he felt he had “a pretty good chance of going to camp and proving myself,” prior to the pandemic.

“Everyone’s goal is to go there and make the NHL, right, and I think I had at least a chance to make the American Hockey League (affiliate team) and get some experience there, but you know what, nobody expected a pandemic to happen,” Burzan noted. “So right now I’m just trying to get better each and every day, and everyone’s going through the same thing. Hopefully this will all be over soon and we can get back to work. But even with (the WHL), Manitoba is code-red. We’ll see.”

As for the Memorial eCup, the competition starts as a single-elimination tournament, with semifinal and final-round action then seeing players go head-to-head in a best-of-three format.

Other CHL players signed up include Vancouver Giants’ Trevor Longo along with former Giant Lukas Svejkovsky, now with Medicine Hat Tigers.

Meantime, Vancouver Giants have loaned out two players to junior leagues under a new arrangement designed to give athletes competitive playing time while they wait for the WHL season to resume.

One deal will see 2003-born forward Justin Lies head to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Flin Flon Bombers through Dec. 20 of this year. The Giants have also loaned 2002-born forward Krz Plummer to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Whitecourt Wolverines.

• READ MORE: Vancouver Giants loan out players under new arrangement.

In other Giants news, the club has hired Manitoba native Keith McCambridge as an associate coach. McCambridge spent 10 seasons coaching in the American Hockey League, with Hartford Wolf Pack, Manitoba Moose and St. John’s IceCaps. Additionally, he spent six seasons with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces where he served as a head coach (2007-2009), an assistant coach (2006-07) and a player/coach (2003-2006).



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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