If good things really do happen in threes then Alex Burmistrov’s NHL debut in the season-opener, this Friday night at Philips Arena (opening face-off is slated for 7:30) bodes well for the Atlanta Thrashers.
When the Kazan, Russia, native takes the ice against the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals, he'll be Atlanta’s third consecutive 18-year-old, first-round draft pick to earn a spot on the Thrashers’ NHL Opening Night roster the summer after being drafted. He follows defenseman Zach Bogosian (2008) and left wing Evander Kane (2009).
Considering that track record Burmistrov's opening the season in Atlanta sounds like a good thing.
Of course, nothing but good things have been coming out training camp regarding the 5-11, 180-pound center, who played only one season of junior. In his single season with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he scored 66 points (22G, 44A) with a plus-32 rating, then piled on 16 points in 17 playoff games, helping Barrie to the Ontario Hockey League Finals.
Burmistrov wasted little time impressing Thrashers’ first-year Head Coach Craig Ramsay.
"The first thing about Alex is his attitude," said Ramsay. "He's one of the best attitudes I've had around in a long time, especially for your perception of a Russian player. They're generally pretty quiet. He's a bubbly personality. That part is good."
Ramsay likes Burmistrov's on-ice demeanor even more.
“Alex gives you everything he's got," he said. "He's extremely attentive. He still tries to do some things that are incorrect, just like everybody, but boy, oh, boy, he competes. He's fun to have around so we're really excited about the prospect of having him on our team and around our team."
The Thrashers organization picked up that same positive vibe from the youngster and inked him to a three-year entry-level deal on Tuesday.
"This is my first NHL contract. It's too exciting," he said following Wednesday’s practice. "To be here and start the season here, everything here is very exciting. I don't have the words for something like that."
His teammates aren't nearly at the loss for words.
"He's just a great kid," said right wing Chris Thorburn who has spent the week practicing with the energetic center. "He's always looking to learn something. He's got the right attitude and the right mindset and that's all you hope for in a young kid, to be open-minded. He gives it 100 percent all the time, whether it's on the ice or in the gym."
Ramsay expects to see no less than 100 percent from Burmistrov on Friday, especially with a more renowned Alex — Washington's Alex Ovechkin — and fellow distinguished countryman Alexander Semin in the house. It’s an opportunity to shine that Ramsay believes his rookie won’t let slip idly by.
"There are a few Russians on that team that he might want to show off a little bit against," he said. "I think you like to see his commitment and he's got that commitment. So who knows? You never underestimate anybody with that level of commitment."
“He's definitely a hard-working kid and he's going to be an exciting player to watch,” added Thorburn. “He's got a great skill set and I think he should be able to produce some offense this year for us.”
To play in the NHL, I can't believe it. I'm 18 years old and I'm here and soon my dream will happen - Alex Burmistrov
Whether the hard work is coming on the ice or off as he continues to adapt to North American culture, Burmistrov is earning fans in the Thrashers locker room.
"He has great vision, great speed, and a great skillset," said winger Anthony Stewart who has gotten to know Burmistrov better than some over the course of camp. "From what I've seen I've definitely been impressed and he's very eager to learn about everything. I've been driving him around the last couple days and he's always asking what the songs are that I'm playing. He likes the rap, so it's good. A little 50 Cent, a little Drake. He likes it all."
There is no peer pressure to score in his NHL debut, but it is something the last two Thrasher first-round forwards have done in their NHL debuts, as Bryan Little scored a goal in his opener in 2007 and Kane tallied an assist last year.
That’s not going to put added pressure on or bother Burmistrov. He is just a kid living the dream.
"I don't know what to say right now," he said when asked about Friday night. "To play in the NHL, I can't believe it. I'm 18 years old and I'm here and soon my dream will happen."
For more from Alex Burmistrov watch the video below as he talks about his new contract, his new number, and his linemates.