"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 coach Marty Williamson
Alexander Burmistrov got his first taste of North American ice surfaces last spring at the World Under-18 Championship in Fargo, N.D. He liked it so much, he decided to come for an entire season.
One of the top Russian-born prospects for the 2010 Entry Draft, Burmistrov is spending this season with the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts.
It's been a successful start, as the 5-foot-11, 172-pound center had 2 goals and 3 assists in his second game, and currently leads the league with 8 points.
Burmistrov played one game last season with Ak Bars Kazan in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, and likely would have had a larger role for the team this season, but instead opted for the Colts, who chose him with the No. 12 pick in this summer's Canadian Hockey League import draft.
"I like the Canadian style of hockey more," Burmistrov told NHL.com through an interpreter. "I like playing in smaller rinks. It's a much faster game. You have to think much quicker, you have to pass much quicker."
Burmistrov had 4 goals, 11 points and a plus-7 rating the Under-18s as Russia took home the silver medal.
"His vision is excellent," NHL European Scouting Director Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "He sees the ice very well and his passing skills are outstanding."
Now he's showcasing those skills to early rave reviews in the OHL. While it's a long season, Barrie is reaping the reward for what coach Marty Williamson called a gamble in selecting Burmistrov. Barrie had to trade with the Oshawa Generals to move into the No. 12 spot.
Williamson said the hesitation had to do with last year, when the Colts drafted another Russian forward, Kirill Polozov, who decided to remain at home. Williamson said Burmistrov's agent, Mark Gandler, told him the young forward wanted to play in North America, but wasn't 100-percent sold. He credited assistant GM Jason Ford for doing the legwork in recruiting Burmistrov.
"They were extremely convincing," said Williamson. "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."
There haven't been any in the early part of the OHL season, and before that at a camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., when a Russian team skated against a U.S. squad at a junior evaluation camp.
"One of the things I noticed about him right away is he's from this new age of Russian hockey players," said Williamson. "They were very dour in their approach to the game (but) now they seem very excited about the game and that's how he looks. When he jumped on the ice you see the passion for the game.
"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."
Three of the four exhibition games between Russia and the U.S. were played on the smaller, North American-sized rink, but Burmistrov didn't look out of place.
"The physical part of the game was no problem for him," said Williamson. "The U.S. was banging around bodies pretty good, but it didn't seem to bother him at all."
Burmistrov's offensive outburst is a boon to a Colts team that last season was 14th of 20 teams in the OHL in goals (214) and 17th in power play (15.3 percent).
"He's certainly a top-six forward," said Williamson. "For sure he's going to be on the power play. I had one of the weaker power plays and I added two guys (Luke Pither, acquired in a trade with Belleville and already with a league-best 7 goals) that will help the power play. He skates so well and reads the game so well. We're looking for him to be a big part of the backbone of our offense."
The other part of Burmistrov's development will come off the ice. He speaks very limited English, but plans on learning as much as he can from teammates and in school.
"One of my players said we don't know a word we're saying to each other but what a great guy," Williamson said. "He's got a great personality and a great character to him."Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer