The versatility that allowed Burns to play forward or defenseman helped him fashion an NHL career, but the decision by the San Jose Sharks to have him focus on playing defenseman turned him into a force on the ice.
Born in Barrie, Ontario, Burns spent the 2002-03 season with Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League after being selected by the Minnesota Wild in the first round (No. 20) of the 2003 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Wild on Oct. 8, 2003, against the Chicago Blackhawks, and scored his first NHL goal in his third game, against the Sharks.
The Wild saw Burns more as a defenseman than a forward. In 2006-07, Burns became the first NHL defenseman in four years to score overtime winners in back-to-back games; he did it on March 11, 2007, against the Colorado Avalanche and two nights later against the Vancouver Canucks.
Burns played all 82 games for the first time in 2007-08 and set a Wild record for defensemen with eight power-play goals. His 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists) in 2010-11 set a Wild single-season mark for defensemen and earned him his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game.
The Wild traded Burns to the Sharks on June 24, 2011, and he made his San Jose debut Oct. 8, 2011, against the Phoenix Coyotes. On Oct. 15, 2011, he scored his first goal for the Sharks in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
The Sharks moved Burns to forward during the 2012-13 season, and he blossomed in 2013-14, scoring 22 goals and getting his first NHL hat trick against the Blues on Nov. 29, 2013.
San Jose returned Burns to defenseman in 2014-15; he scored 17 goals and finished tied for second among NHL defensemen with 60 points. Burns also won the NHL Foundation Player Award for outstanding charitable and community work.
He had a breakout season in 2015-16, finishing with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists), then had 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Sharks reach the Final for the first time since entering the NHL in 1991.
Burns was even better in 2016-17, piling up 76 points (29 goals, 47 assists) and becoming the first player in Sharks history to win the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top defenseman. He followed that with 67 points (12 goals, 55 assists) in 2017-18; and then had an NHL career-high 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) in 2018-19, leading all defensemen in scoring while playing all 82 games for the fifth straight season.
NOTES & TRANSACTIONS
- NHL Second All-Star Team (2016)
- NHL First All-Star Team (2017)
- Played in NHL All-Star Game (2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- Traded to San Jose by Minnesota with Minnesota’s 2nd round pick (later traded to Tampa Bay, later traded to Nashville — Nashville selected Pontus Aberg) in 2012 NHL Draft for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and San Jose’s 1st round pick (Zack Phillips) in 2011 NHL Draft, June 24, 2011.