Alexander Burmistrov – Hockey Sense and Sensibility

NHLHS Atlanta Thrashers correspondent Laura Astorian profiles the organizations first round pick from 2010, Alexander Burmistrov.

When Alexander Burmistrov was drafted 8th overall in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Thrashers fans were surprised and apprehensive.  The Thrashers have not had the best luck with Russians in the past season.

After months of negotiations, Ilya Kovalchuk left the team despite leading Atlantans to believe that it was his desire to stay.  Maxim Afinogenov declined a contract offer and decided to test the free agent market.  Slava Kozlov was banished to the bench, presumably about comments made in the Russian press regarding then coach John Anderson.  Despite the fact that Kozlov’s words regarding the coach were proven true at the conclusion of the season, he was not offered a contract and is still waiting for a contract from an NHL or KHL team.

One can see how after all of this, when Alexander Burmistrov was announced as the Thrashers’ pick, many in attendance at the draft party gasped, cringed, or just went “huh.”  When one says the word “Russian,” thoughts flash back to the Thrashers’ former first overall pick, all-time scoring leader, and flashy left wing.  Flash isn’t the word to describe Burmistrov.

Burmistrov is funny, quick witted, and extremely excited about being an Atlanta Thrasher.  He addressed concern about returning to the KHL right off the bat, saying it was for old guys, and addressed it again in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore – he is absolutely not returning to the KHL to complete his contract with Ak Bars.  The Barrie Colt is looking to return to Juniors if he does not make the Thrashers out of prospect camp, but he wants to make a good impression.

He counts both Afinogenov and Kozlov as two of his favorite Russian players. He is also quite the Pavel Datsyuk fan.  This should tell a person what Burmistrov considers important in the game – sense.  Vision to read the play, set up players, and make sure that the puck winds up in the back of the net regardless of if he shot it or not.  That’s something that was easily seen at prospect camp.

My notes from camp are full of notations like “#49 (Burmistrov) to #64 (Ben Chariot) – almost instant play and goal.”  A lot of Burmistrov’s passes are “blink and you miss them” quality.  He made several passes that completely caught the other prospects off guard - not because Burmistrov played the puck incorrectly, but because the other prospects on the ice weren’t fast enough.  He thinks faster than many other players on the ice, which is shades of Kozlov.  He might’ve been easily knocked off the puck at times by bigger players (he needs to add weight before training camp), but he can get the puck back just as quickly. He can turn on a dime and has outstanding balance and puck control, even when being chased by a defender or two.

Prospect camp held many pleasant surprises amongst the up and comers in the organization.  Burmistrov wasn’t a surprise in the least, but he was one of the elite players to watch out on the ice.  The roster is full on the Thrashers this year as of right now, but if Burmistrov were to made the cut, it wouldn’t be shocking.  It’d be downright sensible.

Laura Astorian
NHLHS Atlanta Thrashers Correspondent
Twitter: @hildymac