Talk to coaches at almost every level, and the common thing you will hear is how a defenceman needs to be polished, poised and a steadying influence.
Those characteristics are often used to describe veteran blue-liners.
But like in any situation, there are always exceptions to the rule.
Listening to the Valley West Hawks coaches describe 15-year-old Kyle Burroughs, it is hard to believe they are describing a league rookie compared to a three-year vet.
“It is hard to consider Kyle a first-year player knowing his skill set, leadership, ability and rate of performance,” said Hawks co-head coach Ryan Weber. “Kyle does not play like a rookie.”
This is largely due to his hockey sense and maturity.
“His ability to be in the right place at the right time is one of his strongest suits,” Weber said. “This can be attributed to his high level of hockey knowledge and amazing understanding of the game.”
An all-around defenceman — he can play a shutdown role or chip in offensively — Burroughs is equally capable of skating the puck out of the zone or delivering a big hit.
This year, the offensive side of his game has really flourished.
Through the first 30 games of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League, which is for players ages 15 to 17, Burroughs leads the league in scoring among defencemen with 10 goals and 22 assists. That puts him tied for third on the Hawks and just outside the top 10 in the league for all positions.
For his part, Burroughs shrugs at his offensive production, crediting some puck luck around the net as the key reason he has become a point-per-game player.
“Usually I don’t get many points, but (the chances) have always been there,” he said. “I am just getting more luck. When I am passing the puck, it seems to be going in.”
Regardless of how he is piling up his points, people are taking notice.
Over the weekend, Burroughs suited up in the league’s all-star game in Chase. And in a few weeks, he is off to Halifax as part of Team BC to compete at the Canada Winter Games.
He is one of three local players on the squad: Shea Theodore and Brandon Potomak, both of Aldergrove, have also made the team. Theodore is a defenceman with the MML’s Fraser Valley Bruins who also played in the all-star game, while Potomak is a forward at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy.
Making the CWG team was a year-long process, with players convening every few months, hoping to make the next round of cuts.
“I had my heart set on making this team,” Burroughs said, adding he was looking forward to challenging himself against the other top players in his age group from across the country.
“I am looking forward to seeing the compete level of the other provinces and all the new players you have to look out for.”
Burroughs hopes to play next season in the Western Hockey League, with the Regina Pats, the team which drafted him in last April’s bantam draft.
In the meantime, he is gearing up for the stretch drive as the Hawks (20-4-6) are currently in top spot of the 11-team league with 10 games remaining.
An associate captain — who was also captain of the Langley AAA bantam Eagles last year — and leader on and off the ice, the coaches know they can count on Burroughs to set the tone.
“Kyle is one of the more focused players on our team and exemplifies the attitude we want from our players,” Weber said. “He is the type of player who loves the game and you can see it in his excitement about being at the rink and playing the game he loves.”