The Atlanta Thrashers were jam packed with forwards after their training camp concluded. Actually, one could argue that the roster was a bit full heading into a scrimmage played in rookie camp, at least until the point that Patrice Cormier blocked a shot off of his foot and fractured the bone. Cormier was widely expected to make the team as a third or fourth line center; a young leader on the team who played with an edge and who never backed off. Instead he's hobbling around in a surgical boot.
The traditional role of third or fourth line center has been played to perfection by Jim Slater. Slater entered training camp with a wrist injury that would keep him sidelined until October 15th. The Thrashers had an open spot, and decided to give their 2010 first round draft pick a try-out. Few expected it to be successful.
The Thrashers told the 8th overall pick today that he had passed the try-out; he will be staying with the Thrashers for the remainder of the season. The eighteen year old center is too young to be sent to the Thrashers' AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, and after nine games his pro-contract starts ticking. He will be on the roster, and the rotation of Jim Slater, Eric Boulton, and apparently Niclas Bergfors will continue to be rotated out to give Burmistrov playing time for development. Burmistrov is playing at a level above his OHL teammates on the Barrie Colts. In 62 games last season he scored 22 goals and 43 assists, showing both his playmaking and scoring ability. This reflects the style of his idol, fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk. He also lists former Thrashers Slava Kozlov and Maxim Afinogenov as his idols, not flashy scorers like Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin.
Thrashers fans shouldn't automatically associate Russian with being a scorer. Burmistrov has just one assist on the year, but even in the short amount of time that he's played with the team he has been able to stay on the puck, and centered the best line on the team through the first weeks of the season. He's still learning, and isn't a huge flash that draws your attention, but playing at the NHL level is the best way for him to learn how to play the game. Going back to Juniors now for another year would lead to him playing at the same level as he has been, not working up to the level of an NHL center.
Occasionally he might be a healthy scratch, and that's ok. He's learning, but the Thrashers are a team with solid mentors for him as well as players who will teach him to handle the physicality of the NHL while still sticking up for him. The best way to learn something is to experience it for yourself. Burmistrov will be doing that this season, and it'll pay dividends in the future.