Brayden Burke could be one of the Flames’ best camp invitees in recent history

Brayden Burke probably should have been drafted. But for his second year of eligibility, the 5’10, 160 lb. forward was passed on by everyone, leaving the Flames to get a look at the 19-year-old as a development camp invite.

He isn’t the only small invite to camp this year, but he is the only one who played in major junior. Not just played in major junior – was third in overall points in the WHL with 109, and tied for the lead in assists with 82. This might not just be a development camp invite; this could be a “holy crap, we really have something here” moment.

Burke vs. Mangiapane

When the Flames took Andrew Mangiapane in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, it was his second year of eligibility, too. Like Burke, he was a smaller kid who busted out of nowhere in his draft year+1 season to have a 100+ point year. Unlike Burke, the Flames actually used a draft pick on him.

Draft Year Points DY+1 Points DY+1 Primary Points DY+1 ES Points DY+1 ES Primary Points
Andrew Mangiapane 51 104 76 51 40
Brayden Burke 34 109 75 67 53

If the concern between the two is just where their points came from, then Burke actually comes out looking better. Sure, there were secondary assists – but he wasn’t reliant on special teams to score, and 49% of his points from this past season were primary and at even strength, compared to 38% of Mangiapane’s when the Flames drafted him.

The only other real differences here? Mangiapane had the better draft year, and he has about 20 pounds on Burke. That’s it.

Past invitees

But that’s Mangiapane – and he was drafted. The Flames chose not to use a pick on Burke, so instead of comparing him to fellow small players who have or will attend Flames development camps – the Matthew Phillipses, the Johnny Gaudreaus – let’s see how past invitees have fared. After all, most don’t get signed – but a few do. And maybe Burke can be one of the guys to make the cut.

Over the past five development camps, not that many small undrafted players get invited; most of them tend to be bigger guys. Sometimes things work out – Austin Carroll was a camp invite before he was drafted, Ryan Lomberg and Matt Wilkins have started to find places within the Flames’ minor league systems – but most of the time, they don’t.

Sometimes, there can be successes the Flames miss out on. Frank Vatrano, for example, was a Flames development camp invite in 2012; he’d put together a solid 18 point season through 24 games of USNDTP play. This year, the 5’9 forward outscored Derek Grant in the AHL by 10 points in the same number of games played, plus scored 11 points through 39 NHL games.

On the other hand, Justin Dowling, Bryan Cameron, Dustin Sylvester, Noel Acciari, and, most recently, Tyson Baillie don’t appear to have done quite as much. 

Dowling and Cameron were both present in 2011. Dowling was coming off of an overage season in the WHL in which he scored 67 points through 63 games, and got his first couple of AHL games in. Most recently, he’s spent the past four seasons playing for the Texas Stars in the AHL, putting up solid point contributions, but without a sniff of NHL action. 

Cameron, meanwhile, scored 15 points through 60 AHL games; the 2010-11 season was the last time he ever played in the AHL. 

Sylvester attended development camp in 2012. Older brother to longtime Calgary Hitman Cody, Dustin had scored 34 points through 64 games for the Abbotsford Heat when he was invited. He played one more season with the Heat before going to play in Austria.

Acciari attended camp in 2013 following his first season at Providence. He played his four years, and made his NHL debut with the Bruins this past season, but only has one assist through 19 games.

And then there’s Baillie, who stuck around for quite some time in 2015, not just in development camp but in September’s prospect camp as well. He’s more aligned with Burke than a number of these guys. Standing at 5’11 and 196 lbs., he’s actually bigger – and also went undrafted over two years.

Baillie had 76 points through 68 games for a superb Kelowna Rockets team in the 2014-15 season. He was third in team scoring. He’s since followed it up with a fifth season in Kelowna this year, during which he scored 95 points over 70 games to lead the Rockets.

How is Burke different?

Dowling had potential, and sure enough turned into a decent player, but not an NHL guy. Baillie still has potential, and someone is sure to scoop him up somewhere as he gets set for his first professional season.

Burke has potential, but his first glance is more impressive than the other two’s.

For one thing, neither Dowling nor Baillie came close to leading the WHL in points when they were invited; Burke has. For another thing, his draft+1 season saw him outscore both players in their overage years. Burke is younger and he’s already shown more.

After combing through lists of previous Flames development camp invites, I don’t think the Flames have ever invited someone with the current resume Burke has, perhaps just Vatrano aside.

Per the CBA, the Flames can sign Burke as a free agent. At this point, he’d probably have to play himself out of a contract to not be offered one.

    • beloch

      I suspect Treliving’s hands are tied until he has new contracts for Monahan and Gaudreau squared away. Jooris is apparently being courted by the ‘nucks, so hopefully Treliving can act quickly enough.

  • Flash

    Am pleasantly surprised by the Flames’ sudden interest in drafting / signing small, highly skilled players.

    This would never have happened 2 years ago (especially with Brian Burke around).

    Should we call this the Gaudreau effect?

      • OKG

        I’m not going to pretend to have watched Burke play, but I’ve read that he’s more of a Sam Gagner type than a Paul Byron type.

        Mangiapane, is a Paul Byron type. His two-way play, compete level, and dirty work play will get him a look in the big leagues. His scoring is a good way to project him, but isn’t what defines him. I think Matthew Phillips, Andrew Mangiapane, Hunter Shinkaruk and Dillon Dube have satisfied our systemic quota for small skilled players for the time being. Burke would have to blow Treliving away in camp to get a contract.

        Re: The article. Don’t forget we invited this 6’5″ defenseman to camp last year, and he had a pretty damn good draft+1 season….

        • piscera.infada

          Fair enough. I don’t pretend to have any insight at all in regards to Burke. I’ve also haven’t watched him in any meaningful enough way to form an opinion on his game. That said, simply from a cursory perspective, it seems like a pretty solid camp invite. I know the Hockey News was pretty big on him labelling him as a fourth round talent, that might go as early as the second.

          From my perspective at least, it’s certainly too early to frame this as some sort of coup though.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          We need player in the AHL too. I do believe that he is eligible to play in the AHL this year. The thing about signing a guy like this is it gives you more bullets. Whether he plays much (or at all) in the NHL, he becomes a free asset. No pick required. If you had a choice between using a draft pick on a Hunter Smith or this kid, which would you take?

      • Shoestring

        Incredibly soft. Shys away from all contact. Doesn’t seem to put much effort in when in puck battles. The Hurricanes offensive system was to skate and always have a player skate to the net for a pass/odd man rush, or jump a forward out of the zone early looking for a breakaway pass. Didn’t display much outside of the offensive zone. Not that plus/minus is a great stat to track but his numbers suggest he isn’t capable defensively. Was a complete non factor in the playoffs. (When the games get tough)

          • McRib

            “His plus minus was +36 this past season.”

            Which was good enough for 1st on his team and 11th in the league… I honestly think he is mistaking Burke for Babenko. How is someone bad defensively, when he is a league leader in +\-? I mean +\- is flawed I get it, but when your next closest teammates were +30 and +26 you don’t have much of an argument.

            If you eliminate players from Brandon and Victoria on that +\- leaders list (who had insanily staked teams), only two other players in the league had better plus minuses (Helewka, Brooks).

        • McRib

          I have watched Brayden Burke 30+ times the last two years and I haven’t seen him shy away from contact once (you don’t score 109 points if you do). In fact in my numerous viewings I have regularly seen someone who does the majority of his lines heavy lifting night in and night out, constantly digging pucks out of the corners. Not to mention everything you are saying is exactly what people were saying about Tyler Johnson a few years ago with Spokane, who is now one of the premium offensive producers in the NHL. Honestly when Spokane won the Memorial Cup everyone was praising Drayson Bowman and Mitch Wahl constantly, yet who turns into the “player” undrafted Johnson. Burke also tied for his team lead in playoff scoring (how is that not showing up, they just lost to a hotter team. Regina was missing two of their best defenders down the stretch or else they would have finished higher in the standings). Honesty are you sure you were watching the same Burke as everyone else?!?!?

          Every time Egor Babenko and Giorgio Estephan played with Burke their point totals spiked, right him off all you want. You don’t score 109 points and lead your team in scoring by 20 points if someone else is “carrying you”. You have it the wrong way around. Babenko was the soft one and Estephan just sat cherry picking all game or was out of the lineup with an injury.. I mean the only weakness in Burkes game is he doesn’t score very much, but when you consider that 24 of his 27 goals came even strength those numbers look a lot better. Burke added a full step on his stride last off season, turning into a much better skater. He still could add another 15-20 pounds of muscle, which suggests even more upside with a further improved skating strode down the road. Burke is a no brainer FA signing.

          • Shoestring

            Each game he has played in Red Deer as a member of the Hurricanes and the Rebels (1). Rebels rookie and development camps. He is a very uninspiring player despite his point totals. 109 points plus 34 doesn’t look that good. Playoffs 4 points -5, not very good. You can like him all you want but I don’t, and unless he makes huge strides to his overall game my mind wont change.

          • jakethesnail

            Having Global Lethbridge on my satellite service I watched as Brayden Burke was almost on every highlight reel of Hurricanes games last season.

            I have high hopes that he will show enough to garner a contract at Development Camp before another team picks him up.

  • Prototype369

    Could it be? I desperately wanted DeBrincat with our 35th overall, but we instead traded it away for Elliot, a trade I loved. But is Brayden Burke our mulligan for a small highly skilled player? Gaudreau, Mangiapane, Burke. Gaudreau is already a superstar in his own right, period. Mangiapane has the skillset to be an excellent second line winger. With Burke, it’s too early to tell, but his ceiling appears to be quite high.

  • This is a smart invite. It’s a no lose. If he impresses you sign him to a lower end 2-way deal as an undrafted player you get him for pennies on the dollar. If he has a good camp but doesn’t wow you he’s only 19 turning 20 you can choose either to sign him or wait and see. Or you can offer him an AHL deal give him another year under yoru eyes. Costs you nothing but dollars. You gotta love those low risk moves. It’s like someone else said here. Puts another bullet in your gun. you do this all day everyday. Look at guys like GIO this is how you build winning teams. Hiting 4th and 6th round picks finding guys who other teams pass up and don’t take a chance on for free. Any idiot can draft Monahan or Tkachuk when they fall in your lap. Feaster did it with Mony. Burke and Tre did it with Bennett and Tkachuk this year. Hell any idiot can draft a Jesse Puljarvi when he falls in your lap or for that matter its pretty damn easy to draft when you win 4 or 5 #1 picks in 7 but the reality is look at how well that’s worked up north… you dont build teams just with #1 picks you gotta be smarter than that.