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|
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.
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.