By Daniel Fink – ReginaPats.com
Three Regina Pats spent time in the professional ranks at the close of the 2013-14 season. Kyle Burroughs, Chandler Stephenson and Morgan Klimchuk all made their regular season pro debuts. Daniel Fink catches up with all three to break down their experiences.
The Regina Pats season came to a disappointing end when they were swept from the WHL Playoffs by the Brandon Wheat Kings. With that end came new beginnings for several Pats players as they joined their NHL affiliate AHL teams on Amateur Tryout Contracts. Pats Captain Kyle Burroughs, a 7th Round selection of the New York Islanders, was the first Pat to get into professional action this spring. He suited up with the Islanders’ affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“I got down there after a game one day, the next day I was practicing and the next day we had an eleven o’clock game so it happened really quickly,” explained Burroughs. “It was a good experience for me playing with guys like that. They’re always giving you tips to help you work on your game and develop you to the next level.”
In his first season as Captain of the Pats the Langley, B.C. native enjoyed a career year on the blue line, totaling forty points (8G, 32A) in just 58 games. He was also a +14 in the plus/minus category en route to being named the Pats Defenceman of the Year for the second consecutive season. Burroughs logged substantial minutes in every situation for the Blue and White and found himself playing regular minutes with Bridgeport.
“I was playing in key situations, key minutes on the powerplay and a little 5-on-3. It was kind of like in Regina, obviously it wasn’t as much of a role, but I was still eating up a lot of minutes.”
When talking to any player who moves up a level of hockey, speed is generally the biggest difference. Burroughs acknowledged that, as well as a higher hockey IQ, among his teammates and opponents.
“It was a lot faster and there were a lot smarter guys there. They come at you faster on the forecheck, but the thing is you have guys on your team who are smart as well. They’re faster and big as well so they’re in better spots for you and stuff like that.”
Standing just shy of six feet and weighing in at 185 pounds, Burroughs is on the smaller side of defencemen at the pro-level. That required more of an adjustment on his part.
“It’s challenging when you have guys who are in their late 20’s who have been around the league for a while and they’re bigger and stronger. Being a smaller guy you kind of have to know how to play those guys. I’ve been lucky enough the past couple of years to be training with some pretty good pro defencemen and they kind of give you tips and stuff like that. It was going down there and putting their advice into action.”
The Pats’ second leading defensive scorer didn’t register any points in nine games with the Sound Tigers, but the stint in the minors was about learning what it takes to play at the next level. For Burroughs, that means thinking the game at a quicker pace.
“Your decision making is a big part of the game (in the pros). That’s how guys are successful down there. They know what they’re going to do right before they get the puck. That’s something I want to apply to my game and will make me a better player in the long run.”
In the 2012-13 campaign, Burroughs put together a brilliant second half to the season which resulted in the Islanders calling his name at the 2013 NHL Draft. He participated in their prospects camp ahead of the 2013-14 season, so his stint with Bridgeport wasn’t the first time the organization got a chance to see him in action. It was, however, the first time he saw game action against seasoned pros and an opportunity to prove himself. Kyle was pleased with how the experience went.
“I got some good feedback and that’s what I wanted to do, create a good impression and show I can play at that level. I played nine games there so there are more to come and I want to play pro hockey in the future. If I left that impression with them I’m going to be happy with it and I think I did that.”
With the Sound Tigers season over, Burroughs will take some time to take a well-earned rest before beginning his preparation for the 2014-15 season. When he gets back to work, Burroughs will start out in the gym to continue to add strength before progressively skating more leading up to the new season. As with the 2013-14 year, the Pats will rely on their Captain to log plenty of minutes patrolling the blue line for a defence looking to build on the strides made last season.