When defender Tyler Burton found his way to Calgary during the middle of the 2016 season, he made an immediate impact.
Trying to build off of his 2016 performance, where he scored eight points (3g, 5a) and picked up 83 loose balls in 10 games, Burton continued to battle on the faceoffs, play strong defence, and be a great locker room presence. The seven-year veteran of the NLL compiled five assists and 76 loose balls, while forcing 18 turnovers in 2017.
Unfortunately, Burton sustained an upper body injury against the Buffalo Bandits on April 8 that held him out of the team’s final three contests.
“Personally, it was a good year,” Burton said. “I really enjoyed this team and everyone in here is like a brother. We were super close to the playoffs and I wish I was able to play in the last bit of the season, but with the circumstances of the injury I was kept out. I’m happy with the way the guys ended the season with a big win.”
That 14-7 victory over the Saskatchewan Rush was more than just a win for the Riggers. It set the tone heading into next season and lets the team know they can play with the NLL’s big dogs.
“It’s a daunting thing when you look at our record against them,” Burton said of the Riggers recent string of losses to the Rush. “To know that we can [beat them] and do it pretty well, it’s a good mindset to have next year, knowing that we’re right there with them.”
While that final game had plenty of implications, the one thing missing was a chance to make the NLL playoffs.
After a 3-1 start to the season, the Riggers went on a five-game losing streak before bookending that with a three-game win streak. That stretch through February and early March derailed the Roughnecks season and made it tough to get back into contention.
“Definitely had a good start and a good finish, but that middle run of the season was a tough one for us,” said Burton. “That’s ultimately what put us behind the eight ball.”
In his second season with the Riggers, Burton racked up 150 faceoff wins and pushed himself into second all-time in Roughnecks franchise history with 291. That being said, he’s still 1,103 wins behind the club leader, Geoff Snider.
Having just become a full-time draw man in 2016, Burton is not yet polished in the circle and is hoping to continue improving his craft. Helping him is Geoff Snider’s younger brother, Bob, who is a fantastic faceoff man, himself.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of practice,” said Burton of getting better on the draw. “It’s a testament to Bobby [Snider], too. He’s a phenomenal face-off guy and I’ve been learning things from him so it’s a good tandem when we’re both on the floor. I’m hoping to keep improving and I’ll keep working hard at it.”
And he’ll get the chance to keep working hard at it this summer.
Once healthy, Burton is expected to join the Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association, where he will be their usual faceoff man. Given the fact that he’s improved from 49% to 51% on the draw in just one season with the Riggers, getting more practice will help Burton become one of the league’s better faceoff men.