When the spotlight shines the brightest, most athletes want to be at their best. Taylor Burke didn’t have that luxury.
With scouts swarming the Atlantic major midget hockey championships in Tantallon in March to evaluate top QMJHL draft prospects, the 15-year-old west-end Halifax native found himself dealing with an unpleasant medial collateral ligament sprain.
Not good timing.
“I played through it,” he said. “It affected my play a little bit, but I didn’t want to let my team down. I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team out and help us win.”
Burke was sixth in Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League scoring in the regular season with 21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points in 34 games with Cole Harbour. He then bulled his way to the top of scouting lists by adding 12 points in 10 playoff games en route to a championship.
But at Atlantics, he produced just a goal and an assist in five games. It didn’t turn many heads, but it was a gutsy showing. The good news? It didn’t hurt him much.
The six-foot-one, 196-pound west-end Halifax native is the highest-ranked Nova Scotian for Saturday’s QMJHL draft at sixth overall.
“He proved to us he can play in the league right away and step up and have a big impact,” said Central Scouting’s Patrick Charbonneau. “He’s a strong kid, likes to go to the net, scores most of his goals close to the goalie and he’s not scared to finish a check and play in traffic.”
One scout likened Burke to a young James Sheppard, a former first overall pick who starred with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
But if Burke wants to be the junior player Sheppard was, skating is one area he’ll need to touch up. Just like Sheppard did a half-decade ago.
“It’s harder for bigger guys to have same the speed, quickness and agility as the smaller guys, but you can work on it and get better at it,” Burke said. “It can take you to the next level if you do.”