By: Craig Eagles | Follow Me On Twitter @Eags37
The Boston Bruins have always had a pipeline to the Canadian Maritimes. From Willie O’Ree and Gerry Ouellette to Bob Joyce, Glen Murray, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, and even Don Sweeney, the Maritimes has always served the Black and Gold well.
In recent years the Maritimes has become a hotspot for producing fantastic NHL prospects. Given the current travel restrictions set in place by all the Maritime provinces due to the horrific COVID-19 pandemic, Bruins QMJHL amateur scout Allain Bissonette can’t travel to the region to watch Maritimes Division games live.
The all-important eye test is paramount when selecting the organization’s future. The landscape of the scouting world has drastically changed due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, Don Sweeney and the B’s scouting staff were proactive to ensure the franchise hand eyes on all the top prospects playing in the three Maritime provinces.
The B’s hired longtime Acadia Axemen Head Coach Darren Burns in early October to ensure the organization had someone watching and projecting the region’s talent. Burns is a hockey lifer and is an incredible asset for the B’s organization due largely to his experience behind the bench at the Canadian University level, but also since his son Brady plays in the league with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Burns knows the QMJHL inside and out and knows all the upcoming talent in the region.
Obviously, the B’s haven’t tapped into the Canadian Hockey League in recent years from a draft perspective, but that might all change this season. Regional scouts will undoubtedly take on a more significant role given travel restrictions limiting cross over. With the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League still waiting to get off the ground, the QMJHL and its Maritimes Division was the only game in town for the longest time.
If anything, Bissonette and Burns will also have the opportunity to discuss players, which is of vital importance in the scouting world. The Brockville, Ontario product played his junior hockey in his hometown for the famed Braves organization before joining the Acadia Axemen in 1990-1991. Burns played five years for the Axemen and finished off his playing career as the team’s captain.
There’s no question, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, quickly became Darren Burns home away from home. The crafty, skilled two-way center went from starring for the team to jumping behind the bench. Burns became the school’s Assistant Coach in 1995-96 and held that position for five seasons before taking over the program in 2001-2002. With the AUS season canceled, Burns has extra time to dedicate to his new scouting role but is still active in the community providing developmental programs for youngsters and practicing with the Axemen.
The 50-year-old veteran bench boss has an uncanny knack for spotting talent and building a solid program. Recruiting plays a critical role in any USports program, which obviously has its foundation built on the scouting. By all accounts, Burns is only a one-year contract with the B’s. With all the uncertainty surrounding the game, Don Sweeney and the Bruins scouting staff deserve a lot of credit for thinking outside the box and hiring a phenomenal hockey scout, person, and coach.
The QMJHL is scheduled to restart on January 22, but with cases of COVID-19 surging in New Brunswick, the league might be forced to delay the start of the second half. Nonetheless, when the puck drops, Darren Burns of the Boston Bruins will be there, potentially projecting the next Bruin star.