When the San Jose Sharks acquired Brent Burns from the Minnesota Wild in 2011, they thought he’d become their new No. 1 defenseman. Burns did play on the back end during his first season in teal, but he was converted to a forward the following year and has played on the top line with captain Joe Thornton ever since.
It’s not the first time Burns has played at the forward position, but he’s never looked this good doing it. His size, speed, physicality and shot make him an extremely effective power forward and an ideal winger for Thornton. Burns instantly transformed the Sharks’ offense when he made the transition last season, putting up 20 points in 30 games and wreaking havoc on the forecheck.
This season, the 28-year-old Ontario native is on pace to shatter the career-high 17 goals he potted in 2010. Burns has 14 goals in 46 games played and could easily have more if he hadn’t missed 13 contests with an upper-body injury earlier in the year. He’s also managed 16 assists, bringing his point total to 30.
Burns might even have a shot at setting a new career-high for points in a season, too. He registered 46 points in his last year with the Wild, so he would need to tally 16 points over San Jose’s final 22 games. That’s certainly not out of his reach, especially if he keeps shooting the puck like he did during the first half of the season. Burns has fired 168 shots on goal, ranking 30th in the NHL in that category.
His defensive play and backchecking have been just as strong as his offensive output. Impressive speed and tenacity allow Burns to break up plays in the neutral zone and swiftly get back to the defensive end to prevent quality scoring chances for the opposition. His +19 plus/minus rating ranks 22nd in the league and first on the Sharks.
Some people, including myself, expected a bit more from Burns in terms of total offensive production, but 30 points in 46 games is nothing to scoff at. He has the skill-set to score 30 goals and 60 points in a season, and he’s not likely to reach that mark this year. Still, his play has been strong in all three zones and he has been a key cog in San Jose’s high-powered offense. Burns gets a solid “B” on his report card.