Todd Burgess is this Draft's prototypical late-bloomer. After playing the past two years with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the NAHL and putting up middling stats, Burgess exploded in his third year, leading the entire league with 95 points in 60 regular season games. It's rare to see forwards drafted out of the NAHL, but Burgess' numbers were too good to ignore this year, and as a result, he could hear his name called on the second day of the Draft.
Player: Todd Burgess
Team: Fairbanks Ice Dogs(NAHL)
Height: 6'2" Weight: 179 lbs.
Stats: 60 games, 38 goals, 57 assists, 95 points, +27
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 185th among North American skaters
What I Like:
-Great presence in front of the net
Burgess is really good working in front of the other team's net. Where most players plant themselves at the top of the crease, Burgess keeps his feet to work into open areas and is great at anticipating where the puck is going to go next to get the extra half-step need to win pucks.
Burgess is a really smart player in the offensive zone. He has the vision to find open teammates, and the intelligence to realize when a teammate is going to break open. Here's a nice example of a pretty cross-ice pass to find an open defenseman sneaking in from the point:
-Good hands at speed
The above clip highlights another ability of his that I like, which is the ability to handle difficult passes in his feet. Burgess is surprisingly good off the rush because his hands are good enough to handle the puck without breaking stride. This clip is super smooth to handle a pass and flip it up over the goalie's shoulder without slowing down:
-Incredible point total
To find another NAHL player that scored 95 points in a season, you have to go back a decade to a fairly familiar name: NHLer Pat Maroon. There have been a few other players to come close to that mark over the years, but none had the pro-style frame in the same way Maroon did and Burgess does. Burgess is two years past his draft year, while Maroon was only one year past when he set that mark
What I Don't Like:
There are a couple factors working against Burgess' impressive point total. First, he's already two years past his initial draft year, so he's an older player, dominating a league where it's traditionally tougher for a player to be drafted from. Second, he played a softer schedule even by NAHL standards. Due to travel/cost considerations, the Ice Dogs play an unbalanced schedule with 16 games against fellow Alaska team Kenai River, who only won four games this season. Burgess scored 32 of his 95 points in those 16 games. He averaged about 1.4 points per game against everybody else, so the extra Kenai games added about an extra ten points to his total.
When I saw Burgess early in the season, I loved his first step quickness. When I saw him later in the year, I don't think he played with quite the same jump. Overall, I think his skating was good enough for the NAHL, but I'm not sure it will hold up at the pro level. It certainly won't be a strength of his.
Burgess is a late-round pick, if he's picked at all. If it's possible for an overage forward to get drafted out of the NAHL, Burgess did just about everything a player can do. But the fact that he didn't much in that league prior to this year is a cause for skepticism. He might be worth a seventh round pick to somebody willing to gamble that he's a late-bloomer and now that the light has finally gone on for him, he'll be able to translate that success to higher levels.
Burgess is head to play college hockey at RPI next season. He turned 20-years-old in April, so if Burgess is going to develop into anything as a prospect, it will likely happen sooner rather than later. If he can continue to develop and score at the NCAA level, he has potential as a skilled power forward at the NHL level.