After two seasons playing for his hometown Ak-Bars Kazan in the Kontinental Hockey League, Alexander Burmistrov returned to the Winnipeg Jets after agreeing to terms on a two-year contract July 1.
Burmistrov made a surprise appearance Sunday at Jets development camp at MTS Iceplex and explained how much he missed competing in the NHL.
"I wanted to come meet everybody," Burmistrov said in video posted on the Jets website. "I'm really excited. I missed this kind of game … smaller ice and more aggressive hockey. I'm two years older. I don't know if I'm a different player or not, maybe a little bit, maybe not. We'll see.
"I'm happy to be here. I want to help the team win games."
The eighth pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Burmistrov has 23 goals and 35 assists in 194 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets franchise. He signed with Ak-Bars Kazan after the 2012-13 season, and scored 20 goals with 64 points in 108 KHL games.
"It was a really good experience," Burmistrov said. "My family was there. Lots of pressure because I was the hometown boy and fans wanted to see something from me."
Talks of a return to the League began when Burmistrov met with Jets coach Paul Maurice during the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
"That conversation meant a lot," Burmistrov said. "I don't know how to explain it, but at that time I knew I really wanted to come back. He's the coach and I'm going to try and do the best that I can to play the game."
Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun last week that he wasn't sure how Burmistrov will fit in, but he will try to help fill a void left when forward Michael Frolik signed a five-year contract with the Calgary Flames.
"I know the style he plays and the style Kazan played in the KHL," Maurice said. "We talk about offense from Russian-born and raised players, but they're usually really smart defensively and skilled. [Frolik and Burmistrov] are similar in the way they view the game. Whether [Burmistrov] plays in that hole [with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd], I don't know yet. I've got four combinations on the wall right now that we're playing with. That's my little summer toy. I get to play with that every time I'm bored.
"We won't know until we get through camp. It's not even so much about Alex, it's about the other pieces that come in around him before we round that out."
Besides getting re-acclimated to the League, Burmistrov will have to decide on a new number. The No. 8 he wore in his first stint with the Jets now belongs to defenseman Jacob Trouba.
"That's the biggest question," Burmistrov said. "I don't think I'm going to wear the number (No. 69) that I wore in Russia."