In a draft where all bets were off after the first two picks, the Thrashers' eighth overall choice in the first round was anything but a sure thing. The players that analysts had going to the Thrashers - Nino Niederriter and Brett Connolly - went to the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay, respectively. It was Rick Dudley's turn at the podium, and Thrasher fans had no clue what was going to happen next.
With the eighth overall pick, the Thrashers selected Alexander Burmistrov of the Barrie Colts (Ontario Hockey League). Burmistrov is a medium sized Russian center (5'10", 172 lbs) who is known more for his smarts than his size. The playmaking center was a member of Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL, which Thrasher fans might remember was the training ground of Ilya Kovalchuk.
The young center patterns his game after his role model Pavel Datsyuk. If he can mature into a reasonable facsimile of the perennial Selke award winner, Atlanta can have a first or second line center further down the line.
Dudley hopes to see him put on weight and fight for a position on this season's Thrashers squad, but that remains to be seen pending evaluation at the team's prospect camp this July. He is fast on his feet, drawing comparisons to current (and hopefully future) Thrasher Maxim Afinogenov.
The Thrashers have been lacking a playmaking center since dealing Marc Savard to the Boston Bruins. Not having one was a major stumbling block in the re-signing of Ilya Kovalchuk, and Dudley is looking to have this problem fixed pronto so the team doesn't fall into the same situation again.
Burmistrov gave an interview to Hockey's Future in October, and it shows a desire to develop and get better as quickly as possible:
I simply started playing my game and I see that I’m not playing up to my full potential. I’m improving game after game and I’ll try hard to raise my level in the future. I don’t have a secret, I simply dream about playing in the NHL and the last two seasons in Russia I tried playing in North American hockey style, it helped me adapt to the Canadian style.
He's adapting to the North American game fairly well, scoring 65 points in 62 games. Falconer at Birdwatchers Anonymous has the first interview with the newest Baby Bird, straight from the draft.
Burmistrov is excited to be in the NHL, and was thrilled to play with the Colts. There is a question about him remaining in the NHL, or if he will return to Ak Bars. Will this be another Ilya Nikulin situation? Possibly not, because Burmistrov has played in North America; Nikulin has not. Still, it was enough for TSN to do a feature story on Burmistrov and the risk factor involved:
Alexander Burmistrov feature - Flight risk? (From TSN) (via dchesn)
What will happen? The future remains to be seen, but right now it's looking like the future for this Russian player will be bright in Atlanta.