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Austin Burnevik's impeccable timing

By Peter Odney , 06/25/24, 9:30AM CDT


After two seasons as a role player for the National Team Development Program, Burnevik exploded for over 70 points last season for the USHL's Madison Capitols.

He hasn't skated a shift of college hockey yet, but Austin Burnevik is already old, at least in hockey years. 

The Blaine, Minn. native has seemingly lived several lifetimes on the ice, going from a talented wunderkind at Totino-Grace High School to a role player with the National Team Development Program's Under-17 and Under-18 teams, then exploding for 73 points in 64 games for the USHL's Madison Capitols during the 2023-2024 season. 

He's served time on the penalty kill, the power play, five-on-five, four-on-four, shootouts, and everything in between. 

He's gone from scoring a "Michigan" goal in high school hockey that was featured on SportsCenter to appearing in Flo Sports' weekly rundowns of the USHL's top goals. 

Heading into the 2024 NHL Draft, Burnevik's timing has never been better.  

In two seasons with Totino-Grace, Burnevik scored 33 goals and totaled 68 points.

Burnevik's offensive talent has never been questioned. As a freshman, he showed up at Totino-Grace from the Blaine youth program, promptly scored 15 goals, and added 13 assists for the Eagles. As a sophomore, Burnevik led the Eagles in goals (19) and points (41), outpacing teammate and 2023 Chicago Blackhawks first-round draft pick Oliver Moore.

Like Moore, Burnevik opted to leave prep hockey after the 2020-2021 season and join the National Team Development Program. 

For the first time in his hockey career, Burnevik wasn't one of his team's primary scorers. 

"Going from playing high school was...obviously, you're used to being the top guy on your team to be able to then move into playing USHL teams and even NAHL teams, it's a completely different animal and takes some getting used to, for sure," Burnevik said. 

Burnevik is far from the only fish to swim upstream and be surrounded by sharks.

His first season with the NTDP, he totaled a solid but unspectacular nine goals and 24 points. In season two, he scored six goals and finished with 19 points. 

"At times (it was tough) for sure," Burnevik said of his two seasons in Plymouth. "But being able to manage your downs as well as your ups, and you're going to fight through adversity no matter what."

A Madison USHL Phase II Draft selection, Burnevik decided to remain in the USHL for one more season. Steeled after two years down the depth chart at the NTDP, he was brimming with a desire to prove that he had more to give - and more goals to score.

"For us, he came in motivated after the end of his tenure at the NTDP," Madison Director of Scouting Justin Friedman said. "He came in and worked hard, and that attitude made an impression on guys."

Friedman also applauds Burnevik's consistency with the Capitols and willingness to take every situation in stride. 

"The year before in Plymouth, it didn't end the way he likely would have wanted it to, so he showed a lot of growth mentally to be extremely consistent for us day in and day out," Friedman said. 

Burnevik's growth was evident from his earliest shifts with the Capitols. During the USHL Fall Classic in Pittsburgh, the league's heavily attended kickoff event, Burnevik could be seen directing traffic before face-offs, communicating with his linemates between whistles, and dictating the play with the puck on his stick.

Burnevik scored two goals in his first game with the Capitols, a precursor to a spectacular 40-goal, 71-point regular season. Burnevik led the team in both goals and total points, and his 40 tallies were second among all USHL skaters behind Dubuque's Noah Powell (43). His 71 points ranked seventh overall.

"He earned every bit of the opportunity that was provided early in the season," Madison Head Coach and General Manager Andy Brandt said. "Players are provided opportunities all the time, and few take advantage of that opportunity like Austin did. I can't say enough about his work ethic."

Considering the massive jump in production, one could guess that Burnevik got his groove back last season with Madison. But if you ask him, he's adamant that he hadn't lost anything. 

"I wouldn't say (my confidence) was ever gone," Burnevik said. "It was just kind of getting the opportunity to apply that (confidence). So, I wouldn't say it was ever gone, but this last year, I feel like I was able to apply it more and put myself in the position to do those things."

Austin Burnevik totaled 15 goals and 42 points in two seasons with the National Team Development Program.

Burnevik committed to St. Cloud State before departing Fridley-based Totino-Grace and has stuck with that verbal pledge through his stints with the NTDP and the USHL, thanks in large part to the Huskies' dogged pursuit of him early in his recruiting process. 

"I think I was set on staying close to home, but I was heavily recruited by them kind of first and right away, and I've been able to build a great relationship with the coaching staff over the past few years," Burnevik said, adding that he has been attending St. Cloud State games since he was young, and that his parents are alums of the school. 

Burnevik will skate for the Huskies this season and is spending the summer training with renowned skating coach Katie McDonough of Cutting Edge Performance, who will also work with the entire Huskies' team during the program's fall camp.

"You can't just be a good or an okay skater," Burnevik said, referring to the skating performance needed in the sport's highest leagues. "To get to the next level, you need to be elite, and that's what I'm trying to work towards."

With his assumedly improved skating and improved play in the defensive zone, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound Burnevik could be an enticing package of size and skill. He is ranked as the No. 113 skater in North America according to NHL Central Scouting and was the No. 161 overall pick in a recent mock draft by prospects and NHL Draft writer Corey Pronman of The Athletic. 

With his statistical performance in Madison on the books, NHL teams know he can score goals. They know he can find seams and thread passes in all three zones. They know that when he's put in prime spots, he can deliver premium results. 

And after the last year, Burnevik is also convinced that his sport of choice can spark joy. 

"At the end of the day, hockey's fun," Burnevik said. "Hockey's supposed to be fun, and I think at times when you're struggling, you forget that. I think just being able to remember that and have as much fun as you can with it (is key)."

Burnevik's 42-goal season for the USHL's Madison Capitols put him squarely on draft radars for NHL teams.

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