Alexander Burmistrov, C Barrie Colts (OHL)
Born: October 21, 1991 in Kazan, Russia
Scouting report: Explosive pivot is another high-end playmaker who plays a solid all-around game but whose speed is his calling card.
Strengths: Possesses a beautiful talent for skating: 0-60 in about 2-3 strides, with the extra gears, tight turning radius and smooth agility teams look for. Adds that game-breaking dimension; can be held in check and then on one shift, can explode and alter the complexion of the contest. Tremendous puckhandler who can do his moves at full gallop and maintain control. Hockey sense is a plus: understands the offensive flow and adjusts well on the fly. Soft hands allow for a very nice touch on the puck and he's able to open up passing lanes with his speed and quickness. Plays a solid defensive game; willing to pick up the backcheck and anticipates the play well. A real character kid who backed up his words (wanting to come over to North America) with actions and made a seamless transition with his team. Showed some leadership by example traits in the OHL playoffs and particularly against the Windsor Spitfires, even though his overmatched team was swept in the championship series.
Weaknesses: Shot is average at best; doesn't score nearly as much as his speed/puckhandling/hockey sense should allow for because he's not much of a threat from the outside-- has to do his work in close. His lack of size/strength is an issue; he's going to need a lot of work in the weight room and even so, looks as if he's going to have a hard time maintaining his playing weight as the season wears on.
Style compares to: Pavel Datsyuk, Claude Giroux
Draft prediction: 13th overall to Phoenix. There's probably a good chance that Burmistrov will go higher than this, but this is what we call in the army the "no-pen line" (as in penetration), which is a fancy doctrinal term that means he won't go any lower than 13. Burmistrov is a fabulous hockey talent, and did himself a lot of favors by coming to North America and playing in the OHL. Other options for Phoenix: Derek Forbort, Emerson Etem, Austin Watson and possibly even Dylan McIlrath, though one would think that with two first-rounders, they could shoot for Big Mac with their second pick at 22. Another potential pick here is gigantic center Nick Bjugstad, but the buzz on him is tailing off, as I heard about one scout in particular who works the Minnesota high school circuit not being at all sold on him. The scouts I know who have talked to him and are familiar with his personality all think very highly of him. Phoenix makes sense here, because Burmistrov is that high-reward kind of player who, even with the whispers about a potential contract with Ak Bars Kazan he must honor in the KHL in the near future, he's shown an awful lot in North America already, is getting acclimatized to the culture and hockey here and in the end, is just too good a player to pass up. This is why Burmistrov could very well go to the Rangers at 10 or perhaps even earlier if a team is as smitten with him as I've heard a few scouts (whose teams are currently out of range) are.
Projection: An all-around top-two line center or forward (he could possibly be moved to wing). His lack of mass and strength is his biggest hurdle right now to making an immediate impact at the NHL level, and because he'll be drafted out of the OHL, he won't be eligible to return to junior. In fact, playing against men in the KHL next season may be a better option for his development than returning to Barrie would, but that is up to whomever drafts him to work out with Burmistrov, and there are clear downsides to him going back to Russia as opposed to remaining in Ontario (communication lines for one). Everyone raves about how terrific a person Burmistrov is, and he showed some real gritty leadership in the OHL final series. This stands in stark contrast to another overrated, overblown, overhyped Russian player who has made a legion of mistakes yet keeps getting the benefit of the doubt in media and fan circles. Burmistrov has actually earned his spot in the first round, and come June 25, he's going to be standing on the stage at the Staples Center, wearing an NHL sweater.
Background: Born and raised in Kazan, Russia; played his developmental hockey in Ak Bars Kazan's system. A member of the 2009 silver medal-winning team at the World U-18s in Fargo. Grew up rooting for the Detroit Red Wings and his favorite player and fellow Kazan native, Pavel Datsyuk.
“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. Speed and agility, great fakes and he'll bring players, fans, alike out of their seats. I'd compare him with a (Alexei) Kovalev, (Sergei) Samsonov or (Maxim) Afinogenov.”- NHL Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire to NHL.com
"He's very imaginative in his plays. His skill level is obvious. He has a high skill level, loves to make players around him better, he's a think pass-first kind of player. He's one of those kind of guys that really makes everybody better on the ice." -- Barrie Colts head coach Marty Williamson to NHL.com; September, 2009
"They were extremely convincing. From the dad to the agent, they wanted to come and wanted to come to Barrie. ... I don't know if Mark Gandler felt bad because he talked us into a Russian (last year) and he didn't come. He said the father is on board and he (Burmistrov) wants to come to the OHL. Everything from the day we drafted him was very positive. ... As soon as we drafted him we believed he was here with us, no hiccups, and there haven't been."- Barrie Colts head coach Marty Williamson to NHL.com; September, 2009
"I don't know, I really wanted to play in OHL and Canada. It's my dream to play NHL. My father played before hockey and told me, it's okay, you want play NHL, you go play hockey in Canada."- Alexander Burmistrov on playing in the NHL to NHL.com
" I should play here (Barrie) one season, improve...and then I should get back and play for Ak Bars."- Alexander Burmistrov on his immediate plans in an interview with Andrei Osadchenko of allhockey.ru (translated by russianjuniorleague blog); September, 2009
“I think I’m a different player, not the same as many Russian guys. I play tough. I look like I’m skinny, but on the ice I’m strong.”- Alexander Bumistrov to National Post; May, 2010
One of the best and most informative articles you can read about Burmistrov is this one by Mark Masters of the National Post. Check it out.