**Story Courtesy of Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star**
Connor Burgess admits he wasn’t sure how playing for the Sudbury Wolves would affect his eduction, if the demands and distractions of competing in the OHL might make it difficult to maintain his 90%-plus average.
“I knew the team would do its best to help me out,” said the rookie winger, the son of Wolves owners Mark and Karen Burgess. “But going into the season, I wasn’t sure how the whole thing would work, so I was kind of expecting not to do as well in school as I planned. But the team does such a great job accommodating us, helping us get extra credits and giving us the time we need to work on assignments, that it worked out really well.”
So well, in fact, that the Lasalle Secondary School student earned a 94.8% average and was named Wednesday as winner of the OHL’s Ivan Tennant Memorial Award as the league’s top high school student.
He’s the first Sudbury player to win the Tennant.
“I’m really proud that I could win this award,” Burgess said. “I think it shows how much teams help with the academic part of things and that anyone who plays in the OHL can do well in school and still play hockey at a high level.”
Burgess played in 28 games as a rookie, recording an assist and four penalty minutes, before being sidelined with a knee injury in mid-January. He maintained a full four-course load, including such subjects as advanced functions and university prep chemistry.
He was also named the Wolves’ top scholastic player at a season-end awards banquet last month.
He also managed to keep the extra attention that came with being a Burgess from becoming a distraction.
“Based on his history in school, we knew he was a top student,” Wolves general manager Blaine Smith said. “So we thought he would continue to achieve high marks in class. But there certainly were some potential distractions and a lot of scrutiny, so we’re proud he was able to work through that and focus on not only his education, but also on being a better player.”
“I have been dealing with that stuff for a while,” Burgess said. “So I don’t let it bother me. I just let stuff like that go and do what I like to do, which is play hockey.”
That remains his focus over the summer months, as he’ll travel to Toronto to train with Wolves centre Mathew Campagna at the Gary Roberts High Performance Centre, the facility run by former NHLer and highly-regarded hockey trainer Gary Roberts.
“I definitely want to work on my skating, which is something I have always had to work on, and I want to get stronger, especially in my legs,” Burgess said. “If I improve there, I think a lot of other things will fall into place and I’ll hopefully become a better player all around.”
Sudbury can return most of its season-end roster from this year and Burgess is excited about the team’s potential in 2013-14.
“I’m definitely excited about this summer and about next year,” he said. “We should have a very good team and hopefully, if I work hard this summer, I can be a key player and contribute to the team.”
Smith is impressed by the youngster’s determination.
“Connor has become a quiet leader in the classroom with his classmates at Lasalle and now he’s showing that in the dressing room with that young core group we have,” Sudbury’s GM said. “There’s an opportunity for him to achieve great things on the ice as well as in the classroom.”
Finalists for the Tennant included Chadd Bauman of the Guelph Storm, Brent Moran of the Niagara IceDogs and Andrew Abou-Assaly of the Ottawa 67’s.
Also Wednesday, Oshawa Generals goaltender Daniel Altshuller won the Roger Neilson Memorial Award as top post-secondary student and Soo Greyhounds defenceman Darnell Nurse won the Bobby Smith Trophy as OHL scholastic player of the year.