Alex Burmistrov ‘feels like a different player’ returning to the Winnipeg Jets

Alex Burmistrov came to Canada as a 17-year-old to play for the Barrie Colts of the OHL during his 2009-10 draft eligible season. After playing his youth hockey for his hometown team Ak Bars Kazan in Russia, he wanted to come and play in Canada to get accustomed to the North American style of hockey and get a better grasp of the English language.

He did so to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL.

The young, Russian centre had his dream realized, as he was drafted 8th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

While he was surely very eager to play in the NHL, I’m sure he will even admit that he was rushed into the NHL, as the Thrashers decided to keep him in the NHL instead of returning him to Barrie to further his development. While Burmistrov scored at just above a point per game pace in Barrie, he never eclipsed 28 points for the Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.

There was no doubt that Burmistrov had the skill to play in the NHL, but there were moments that left much to be desired.

That of which is no fault of Burmistrov, as he was given only one year in the OHL to develop his game to the North American style. He quickly fell out of then Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel’s favor, and was continuously made a healthy scratch or placed on the fourth line, which we all know does wonders for a young players development.

After the 2012-13 season, Burmistrov became a restricted free agent.

He made it very clear that he did not wish to play for Claude Noel any longer, and decided the best course of action would be return to Russia to further his development. While it wouldn’t be the North American style, he would be playing heavy minutes in a star role with his hometown team of Ak Bars Kazan. It did not hurt that he would be making some decent money at the same time either.

Here’s a little glimpse of what young Alex Burmistrov has been up to lately in the KHL:

With two more years of playing experience and maturing under his belt, Burmistrov is ready to make a better second impression on the Winnipeg Jets and Jets Nation.

Burmistrov put up very respectable numbers the past two years in the KHL. In 107 games played, he registered 20 goals and 44 assists for 64 points and was a plus-12 overall while averaging approximately 16-18 minutes per game playing for his hometown club. He also added 1 goal and 5 assists in 23 playoff games.

Burmistrov believes that he is a different player than he was during his first stint in Winnipeg and is excited to be back in the NHL.

“Two years (has) been long for me,” Burmistrov told TSN’s Mark Masters. “I was enjoying playing back home, but still, this is my dream (to) play here. I’m still (trying to) improve myself. Everybody (is) looking forward to (seeing) me, like a different player.”

The real struggle will be whether or not Burmistrov is ready to play the North American style of hockey. Paul Maurice, now head coach of the Winnipeg Jets head coach, met with Burmistrov at the 2014 World Championships and has no doubt the young Russian can play in the NHL.

“I met with him knowing he wasn’t going back that year,” said Maurice, who was working as an assistant coach for Team Canada. “I remember him clearly as an 18-year old and thinking ‘wow.’ The things that I took from (our conversation) is that he said he loved Winnipeg. I’m hopeful. I’ve got lots of time for this young man as a player.”

Paul Maurice is well-known for his ability to teach and his patience with his young players. If there is any head coach in the NHL that can get they best out of Burmistrov and put him in a position to succeed, it would be Maurice.

We all know the type of skill that Burmistrov possesses, but a very underrated part of his game is his defensive play.

We’ve already taken a look at how his defensive numbers stack up against the current Jets players and how he would fit in. The numbers show that –stacked up against current Jets players relative to usage– his shot repression, differential and impact on relative corsi were all near the top of his peers.

Jets Nation also took a look at what would be reasonable expectations for Burmistrov in his first season back in Winnipeg as a 23-year old.

Now, I’m not as good with numbers so I won’t embarrass myself trying to explaining the process of how these numbers were determined. However, It was concluded that it would be reasonable to expect Burmistrov to be scoring at a 0.35-0.45 points per game pace.

We also compared those numbers to other NHL players who scored at a similar 5v5 point per minute pace as 21-year-olds, and it included the likes of John Tavares, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, Max Pacioretty, Josh Bailey, Mikkel Boedker, Sam Gagner, Jordan Staal, Nick Foligno, Artem Anisimov, Martin Hanzel, Andrew Cogliano, Brandon Dubinsky, and Dustin Brown.

That’s not bad company at all. Now, in now way am I saying that Burmistrov is going to turn in John Tavares (in fact, it is highly unlikely), but it shows he still has a very high upside. Also, having him for two years at a $1.55 million cap hit, one can’t get much better value than that.

Burmistrov could slot right in to centre the third line or play wing anywhere in the middle-six, with the potential of possibility of moving up to a second line role, given injuries or that he just impresses Paul Maurice and earns a larger role.

Time will only tell how this second stint in Winnipeg will go for Burmistrov, but Jets fans have reasons to be optimistic that he could be here to stay for good and be an impact player for the Jets for years to come.