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Prospect Profile: Brandon Burlon

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In the first three prospect profiles I posted I looked at some of the organizational depth the Devils have on defense and reviewed prospects Matt Taormina, Tyler Eckford and Alexander Urbom.   Keeping with the defensive theme, I will now look at 2008 2nd round pick (52nd overall) Brandon Burlon. 

Burlon has been one of the Devils' ‘silent prospects'.   Hockey's Future has had him ranked as the Devils 7th and   8th overall prospect  in the last two years, but besides posts on ILWT and Hockey's Future there has been little fanfare or information posted on Devils sites about Burlon.  Hockey's Future has always been one of his proponents though as you can see from the following write-up in 2008:

Set to play at the University of Michigan this fall, he's probably at least three collegiate seasons away from turning pro, but he is only going to get better and better and his skill set is tailor made for the up-tempo style of play in the NHL. This will quite possibly be the lowest that Burlon will ever be ranked in the top 20.

You have probably heard little about Burlon due to the fact that he is playing NCAA hockey at the University of Michigan [he will be joined by 2010 2nd round pick Jon Merrill]  and we don't see or get regular updates on his progress.  (Although I will do my best to keep everyone informed in the future)

Fans and media alike tend to focus on high-end prospects (Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby) and steady, developing prospects like Burlon tend to get lost in the shuffle.   Burlon isn't a player that will wow us but he is one that looks poised to have a solid career contributing to a hockey club.  After the jump we will look at how Burlon got to this point in his hockey career.

Brandon Burlon Statistics
Year Team League GP G A Pts
2006-07 St. Michael's OPJHL 45 4 19 23
2007-08 St. Michael's OPJHL 32 7 17 24
2008-09 Michigan NCAA 33 5 10 15
2009-10 Michigan NCAA 45 3 11 14


In his two years playing for the St. Michael's Buzzers of the OPJHL (Canadian Junior)  Burlon helped the Buzzers to two great regular seasons (finishing 2nd in 06-07 and 1st in 07-08) accumulating 11 goals, 36 assists and 47 points in the77 games).  The Blog That Yost Built (a University of Michigan focused blog) found a 2006 OHL scouting report on Burlon you can link to here.

In his 2008 draft review for the Devils, Jared Ramsden of Hockey's Future gave a brief overview of Burlon's skills as he saw them in the OPJHL: 

Burlon has a wide array of skills, but his most noteworthy attributes are his top-notch skating skills and mobility, which in turn make him an offensively dangerous blueliner. He is more than capable of leading the rush up the ice and has the shot and distribution skills to be an effective producer in power play situations.

Burlon also represented his team at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge  helping Canada East bring home a silver medal in the tournament.  In addition to the team accomplishment, Burlon caught the eye of a few scouts and helped improve his draft positioning. Former Nashville Predator scout and current Red Line Report publisher  Kyle Woodlief was very impressed with Burlon:

As for Burlon, he did more to boost his stock than anyone in British Columbia last week, and we suspect he'll join a pair of fellow St. Michael's Buzzers alumni, Andrew Cogliano in 2005 and Brendan Smith in '07, as first round NHL picks when teams convene in Ottawa next June.

Burlon is ultra-smooth and the prototypical two-way defender in the post-lockout NHL landscape. He defends beautifully in his own end, seemingly never making a mistake in either his puck movement decisions, coverage down low or play diagnosis.

1st round pick?   Sounds intriguing.   However there were not too many analysts who fully agreed with his analysis.  Burlon wasn't listed in many of the 1st round mock drafts/rankings  that I could find.  Sports websites like Sports Illustrated,  ESPN or TSN (where he ranked 42st overall) and in this aggregate list from Inside College Hockey you place him anywhere from 42nd through 80th.  Central Scouting Services had him listed as the 41st overall skater in North America and despite his size Chris Edwards of NHL's Central Scouting had praise for his shot and mobility:

"He's not an overly big defenseman, but he has really good mobility and a good shot from the point. He jumps up into the rush well, but needs to improve on his defensive reliability. He played in a really small rink this year and was still able to move the puck quickly and well. Puck-skill wise, he's good, and as he moves up, his decision-making will improve."

As the draft approached he started to shoot up some expert's draft boards as The Hockey News' Mark Seidel had ranked him as the 23rd overall  prospect.  The Hockey News certainly seemed to be a big fan of Burlon as they described him in a separate article as ‘deadly on the power play'. Not to be outdone in the praise of Burlon, the Red Line Report thought that he should have been a late 1st round pick: 

Brandon Burlon rounds out Red Line's top 10 list. There's not much buzz about him, but we feel he'd be a solid choice anywhere after No. 20. He's got great feet and a mean edge. He's as fundamentally sound in his own end as any defender in the draft, and we think he's got some untapped offensive potential as well.

One of the likely reasons for Red Line's positive statements and those of The Blog That Yost Built was due to his combine performance.  The BTYB links to a Hockey's Future discussion that shows how Burlon was one of the strongest prospects recording the most push-ups, tops in pushing strength and pull strength out of all those who attended the combine.  Remember he is only 6'0 190, which makes those accomplishments a little more impressive.  Unfortunately for Burlon his combine performance was not enough as he did not go in the 1st round despite being told that he was likely a late 1st or early 2nd round pick.   However, he did have a positive outlook regarding his status:

"My name wasn't called, so you regroup," Burlon said. "I had a good night's sleep and came back with a big smile on my face knowing I'd be drafted sometime. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait too long."

Slipping to the 52nd overall pick in the draft the Devils selected Burlon who Lou Lamoriello described  as: 

 "He is a complete defenseman we felt that can play well at both ends."

Burlon's selection, along with those of Mattias Tedenby, Patrice Cormier and Adam Henrique impressed media outlets as they received favorable grades from both Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News regarding their 2008 draft class.   Already committed to the University of Michigan, Burlon would continue his development at one of the top hockey programs in the NCAA.

Additional Stats-Brandon Burlon

Year Team League Shots SPCT PPG Plus/Minus Blocks
2008-09 Michigan NCAA 44 0.114 3 17 38
2009-10 Michigan NCAA 57 0.053 3 12 46


Coming into the 2008-2009 season the University of Michigan ranked 2nd overall (behind Boston College) in the CCHA.  In a preseason feature by the Michigan team website Burlon discusses who he wants to play like:  

Modern day players I really like the way Tomas Kaberle (of the Toronto Maple Leafs) plays. When I do go to the Canada Center to watch a game, I dont even watch it. I just watch him. The way he plays, hes so smart, he doesnt get hit, always gets his pass off, hes really calm with the puck. He quarterbacks the power play and hes the modern day player I model my game after."

Burlon joined a team with seven returning defensemen, but was expected to provide an offensive spark to the Wolverine's defense and make it at least to the 3rd pairing.  Initially sidelined by a ankle injury, he missed the first 8 games of the season.  After his first few games Michigan coach Rod Berenson stressed the need for Burlon to focus on his defensive game to limit his defensive mistakes.

His freshman year ended on a positive note as he ended up leading the team in goals and shots blocked by a defenseman. For his efforts Burlon made the CCHA All-Rookie Team (with fellow Devil draft pick David Wohlberg.  Wohlberg also won the CCHA rookie of the year).  While Michigan lost in the CCHA championship game to Notre Dame the future looked bright for both the team and the player. 

Coming into his sophomore year, big things were expected out of both Michigan and Burlon.  ESPN (via Inside College Hockey) featured him as one of the top 10 difference makers in a preview on the 2009-10 College Hockey Season on of potential impact players:

What He Does: "What doesn't he do?"s might be the more appropriate question, as the 6-1, 190-pound blueliner is praised by his coaches for being the total package. Burlon drew favorable comparisons with Michigan alumnus and Boston Bruins rearguard Matt Hunwick for his exceptional skating ability, hockey sense and calculated but effective offensive playmaking. This versatility allows Burlon to be an effective player in all facets of five-on-five and special teams play.

While the season started off slow for Michigan (losing 7 out of their first 11 games) they cameback to finish 7th out of 12th in the CCHA.  A disappointing regular season gave way to a successful postseason as Michigan won the CCHA Championship, qualified for the NCAA but ended up getting beat in their regional final by Miami (OH).

Burlon's season mimicked Michigan's inconsistent season.   He only tallied 3 total points in Michigan's first 19 games (1g/2a) but rebounded in Michigan's final 26 games (including CCHA/NCAA tournament play) with 11 points (3g/8a) 8 of which came on the power play.   Slow start aside he was still ranked as the Devils 6th best prospect by Hockey's Future as two separate articles by Jared Ramsden keep the faith:

Burlon is being brought along slowly by New Jersey, but is developing at a good and steady pace. A future multi-purpose mid-pairing defenseman, Burlon will likely max out his college eligibility before turning pro.

Though his numbers may be a little off this year compared to last, he has shown improvements in other areas of his game, helping round him into a better all-around defenseman. Most notably, he has simplified his game, which has led to better defensive positioning.

Burlon will head into his junior year at Michigan looking to improve on a solid if not spectacular sophomore season.  With three top recruits (Jon Merrill included) on Michigan's defense for the 2010-11 season, Burlon will be pushed to make sure he deserves 2nd pairing minutes.  


Burlon is the most vexing of the prospects I have looked at because from everything I have read he seems to have a tremendous amount of potential, but every report I read on him seems to differ on what type of defenseman he will be at the next level.  Will he be offensively focused?  Will he be more defensively focused?  I have read reports that indicate both.   That is inherently one of the challenges in profiling any player having not seen them, and solely relying on others’ opinions, but in the fall I will be able to share more first-hand accounts with the community.

OK, I am sure most of you are looking for a player comparison because that gives us something that we can visualize.  In trying to come up with a comparable NHL player for Burlon I tried to use the reports I had available to me, past history and projected potential.  Taking all of that into account  I think Burlon can turn into a more defensively responsible Joe Corvo.   Michigan produces smart hockey players, so I expect his positioning and defensive game to improve in his last two years in the NCAA .  Adding his ability to quarterback the power play into the mix I think the Corvo comparison is a bit optimistic but fair.   Does he have the upside of a Tedenby or Josefson or Urbom?  Probably not, but good teams aren't built on just stars and Burlon has the chance to be a quality NHL player.  

So now it's your turn.  Has Burlon flown under the radar?  Do you see powerplay quarterback potential?