At 5'11" and tipping the scales at just 157 pounds, Burmistrov's size has been of concern to scouts.
Ah! The Russian prospects. They come with so many questions nowadays. One thing there is no question about is Alexander Burmistrov’s skill. The 5’11″, 157-pound prospect was unquestionably one of the bright lights of the 2009-10 OHL season, playing 62 games with the Barrie Colts. And like the brightest of stars, he dazzles all who observe him. With his sparkling ability to dance with the puck, deke his opponents and score with incredible flair, he’s pure excitement on skates, drawing comparisons to players like Alexei Kovalev and Maxim Afinogenov.
E.J. McGuire, Director of Central Scouting imaginatively describes him thus:
He’s like a water spider out there on the ice. Light on his feet, but he’s got a venomous strike like a snake when he goes on the offense.
Wow! He sounds like my kind of player. Explosive. Dynamic. Eye-popping and heart-poundingly exciting. As a devoted Thrasher fan, I say bring him on!
Burmistrov is probably the best-known Russian name in the draft, having showed his stuff in North America this year. He’s one of the most highly touted prospects overall and is at the top of every mock draft, but like every Russian in recent years, he comes with the unspoken asterisk. Will he play for whatever team drafts him? Will he stick it out in the NHL like his hero Pavel Datsyuk has? Or, like an increasing number of exciting Russian players, will he leave after a few years in favor of home cooking?
For what it’s worth, he seems sincere in his desire to play in the NHL one day. He is on the record as saying he wants to stay in North America, that the NHL is his dream and that North American hockey “is my type of game.” But, as seems to happen with all Russian players, rumors have surfaced in the run up to the draft that he might return to the KHL for a year or two. However, Burmistrov was quoted in May in the National Post saying it was the NHL do or die for him — money be damned:
The KHL [could] give me lots of money, but for me it doesn’t matter money, I want to play in the NHL. When I’m older maybe I move back, but now I want to play in the NHL and that’s my dream.
Like all prospects, Burmistrov is a wildcard.
Scouts have knocked him for his size. One anonymous NHL scout quoted in The Hockey News 2010 NHL Draft preview issue grumbled, “I don’t care how dynamic you are, he’s 146 pounds and built like Gilligan.” Funny and honest, but a little unfair. He is, after all, only 18 and like most 18-year-old kids, he has a lot of growing to do yet.
The Russian factor seems to be the biggest deterrent to teams that would draft him. It’s popular now to stamp all Russians with the “wildcard” label. (Again, the unspoken asterisk.) This Russian, really, is no exception — though to a lesser extent than some since he’s developed cred, having played in Canada this year and having said all the right things to the media.
The asterisk I’d like to put next to every name on the board this year would say: ” * ALL prospects are wildcards.” None of us knows how any of them will turn out — no matter how highly they are touted. If you remember Alexandre Daigle or Rico Fata or Patrik Stefan (yes we Thrasher fans do), raise your hand. Going high is no guarantee of stardom. Conversely, going low is not a guarantee you’ll become a used car salesman in a one-horse town in Canada or a widget maker somewhere in Siberia.
Time will tell the tale. In the meantime, let’s cut the Russian players a little bit of slack and stop being so cynical. Let’s take Burmistrov at his word and imagine he’s the next Pavel Datsyuk. Not the next Pavel Brendl (a bust) or Alexander Radulov (KHL defector).
Photos: Alexander Burmistrov at combine from Getty Images; Alexander Burmistrov at World Championships from Wikipedia Commons.