It’s easy to look at Alexander Burmistrov’s name and feel instantly wary due to complications that often exist with Russian prospects coming over to North America. In this case, those feelings of unease seem unwarranted.
That’s because Burmistrov, a center, has effectively already made that “will-he-or-won’t-he” jump, having elected to play all of last season with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League rather than with a Kontinental Hockey League team in his homeland.
The significance there isn’t so much about the quality of competition – it’s actually more difficult to play against men in Russia than it is junior players in North America – as it is about his willingness and dedication to become an NHL player.
“He gives you a bit of a comfort level in terms of his relative commitment to playing in North America and ultimately the NHL,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “He worked hard to get his English up to speed by the end of the year and he shows all those qualities that you’d want to see in a Russian or another European coming over here. He clearly wants to be a player and plays hard every night.”
With that potential hurdle out of the way, teams are free to focus solely on the considerable talents that should make him one the first forwards off the board on June 25.
“He’s very skilled and uses his speed to an advantage,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s very good at getting the puck to his wingers.”
Despite the stress of moving across the globe and having to adjust to new surroundings and the North American game, Burmistrov put up 65 points (22 goals and 43 assists) in 62 regular-season games with Barrie. Teaming with Matt Kennedy, the Hurricanes’ fifth-round pick in 2009, he roughly equaled that point-per-game pace in the Colts’ 17-game run to the OHL finals. He’s also represented Russia in two World Junior Championships, posting a total of seven points in 10 games.
While those numbers are impressive, it isn’t just about offense with Burmistrov. The Hurricanes have also been pleased with the defensive side of his game and feel that he could make contributions in all situations.
“He’s a two-way forward with loads of skill and speed,” said Karmanos. “He’s a center who’s very good on draws and kills penalties very well but is also good on the power play. He’s a complete, high-skill forward that I would think would be high on a lot of team’s lists.”
If there is a knock on Burmistrov, it’s his size. He has average height at an even 6 feet but weighs in at just 159 pounds – a figure which obviously must increase before he can suit up in the NHL.
However, the good news is that bulking up can easily be done. Once he matures physically to around 175 or 180 pounds, scouts believe that his size should not be a huge detriment as Burmistrov already shows a willingness to play larger than he really is.
“Even though he’s not a very big guy in terms of weight at this point in time, he’s a very difficult guy to knock down and does not shy away from contact or anything like that,” said Karmanos.
“For a kid that’s slightly built, he’s very strong on the puck,” said MacDonald. “It’s not a lack of strength. Right now he’s smaller than the other guys who can dominate physically, but he relies on his guile and finesse to make the most use of his assets.”
For now, Burmistrov’s frame and the time it will take for him to fill out may be the only thing keeping him behind top-tier forwards Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin on draft boards around the league. In terms of talent and character, he’s certainly not far behind.