First Dance in the Big League
Back in June of 2010 when then-Thrashers GM Rick Dudley selected Alex Burmistrov with the 8th overall pick, he conveyed his excitement almost from day one. Noted as a player “we had been targeting a long, long time”, Dudley was elated at the possibility of finally having a true number one playmaking center, a vacancy that had never been filled since losing Marc Savard to free agency four years earlier in 2006. Right after the draft Dudley evaluated Burmi as being a “brilliant two way player”, and during his rookie season in Atlanta he held the fort strongly as an 18 year old third line center, offering sound defensive play and a willingness to play in any role. Other than being a little undersized, he certainly didn’t look out of place. He’d finish his 18 year old season with 6 goals and 14 assists in 74 games,
Entering 2011, with all the hype of hockey’s return to Winnipeg, it was a memorable year for many reasons: the first Jets goal, the unveiling of the new uniforms, and the jam packed MTS Center rapidly climbing the ranks of the NHL’s loudest building. It was, however, not memorable for the second year center. Showing reasonable improvement on his first year (13g, 15a), Burmistrov also started displaying the signs of a player who started playing in the NHL just a little too early. So concerned about getting his defensive duties correct and being reliable, you started to see a little bit less of what made him such an intriguing prospect back in the OHL with the Barrie Colts. During his rookie season – before his offensive instincts were crushed out of him – you saw amazing tight turns in the offensive zone, firing off a pass mid turn to find a streaking winger. You saw him try to use his soft hands a little more to pull the puck quickly away from the defender and without missing a beat find a pass to his teammate. During his second year, we also saw him slowly start to hold the puck a little bit less along the boards than normal, after being outmuscled hundreds of times during his 75 game rookie season. It’s a shame, because his ability to control the puck along the boards in junior was one thing that allowed him to be so electric; combining that with his vision and hands, you saw the potential for a fascinating playmaking package.