2010-11: Dane Birks appeared in 12 midget AAA games as a 15-year-old, skating for the Williams Lake Timberwolves in his hometown in British Columbia. He had 1 assist and 14 penalty minutes.
2011-12: Birks attended rookie camp with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen before playing junior hockey for Creston Valley in the Kootenay International league. He made his debut in the British Columbia Hockey League – skating in 10 games for the Trail Smoke Eaters with no points and 12 penalty minutes. Birks played 47 games for Creston Valley and scored 3 goals with 21 assists and 72 penalty minutes. The Thunder Cats finished third in the Eddie Mountain Division. Birks had 1 assist and 20 penalty minutes in six playoff games.
2012-13: After attending the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs’ camp in August, Birks committed to playing college hockey at Michigan Tech in 2014-15 in October and skated for the Merritt Centennials. In his first full BCHL season he scored 5 goals with 15 assists and had 28 penalty minutes. Merritt reached the playoffs after finishing third in the Interior Division. Birks had 1 assist and 6 penalty minutes in five playoff games. He was also selected to play in the CJHL’s Young Prospects Games in November. Ranked 121st amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings, Birks was selected by Pittsburgh in the sixth round (164th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
2013-14: Birks returned to Merritt for his second BCHL season with the Centennials. In 50 regular season games he scored 4 goals with 17 assists and 57 penalty minutes. Merritt finished fourth in the Interior Division and was swept by first-place Penticton in a first round playoff series. Birks had no points nor penalties in his only playoff game — missing the first three games against the Vees after suffering a hand injury in practice prior to the series.
2014-15: Birks was ineligible to play his freshman season at Michigan Tech for academic reasons.
2015-16: Birks skated in 31 of 37 games for Michigan Tech in his freshman season with the Huskies. He had 3 assists and was +5 with 16 penalty minutes. The Huskies finished tied with Minnesota State for first in the WCHA, sweeping Alaska-Fairbanks in the WCHA quarterfinals before falling 1-0 to Ferris State in a semifinals game. The Huskies finished 23-9-5 but did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Birks is a mobile defenseman who is good at making outlet passes and possesses a solid shot from the point. He skates fairly well and is not afraid to engage physically. His game overall is still very raw, however, and he missed a lot of developmental time because of academic ineligibility. Birks has the overall talent to be a top four defenseman in the NCAA, but will likely be a depth defenseman at the professional level, as he lacks high-end natural talent.
Birks skated for Michigan Tech in 2015-16 after sitting out the previous season. Playing for one of the top teams in college hockey he was a steady, sound defender with limited offensive inclinations. He should continue to expand his role as he gains more experience with the Huskies and projects as a stay-at-home defenseman.