It would be a stretch to say Alexander Burmistrov is thrilled about being sent to the St. John’s IceCaps. But while he may not be expressing unbridled enthusiasm about his new status as an American Hockey Leaguer, he was saying the right things as he spoke to reporters in Winnipeg for the first time since the assignment.
Burmistrov is the only player who was a full-time member of the Jets last season who was sent to St. John’s as Winnipeg made necessary roster moves Saturday in advance of the NHL lockout. They did so because the young Russian forward is still on an entry-level contract and because the club wants to monitor his development through IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge and his staff.
But Burmistrov had also pitched returning to his hometown of Kazan to play for the Kontinental Hockey League’s Ak-Bars Kazan Snow Leopards, the organization he was part of before coming to North America three years ago.
“I was waiting for that, to see what they (the Jets) wanted me to do,” said Burmistrov.
“That’s the team’s choice. They decided they wanted to do that, so I have to do it. I will go there and play hockey. If I had the chance it would be nice to play there (Ak-Bars Kazan). I know the coaches, I played there the first time. But (playing in St. John’s) is what I have to do. It was a decision we made together, so that’s fine.”
Burmistrov has never played a game in the AHL. He spent the last two years in the NHL after one year in the Ontario Hockey League. The eighth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, he has appeared in 150 big-league games, including 76 in 2011-12 as he posted career highs in goals (13) and points (28). He finished up as the Jets’ No. 2 centre, but did struggle to find consistency, especially in the second hal of the season, going pointless in his last 11 games.
That’s part of the reason why Jets head coach Claude Noel and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff feel Burmistrov, who turns 21 in October. could benefit from an extended stint with the IceCaps.
Asked if he felt he could learn in the AHL, he said:
“I don’t know, because I’ve never been there. I’ve never played that game, so we’ll see. Maybe this game will help me, you never know. I think it will be a different league because a lot of young players will be there. It will be a great league for this year.
“But I hope the lockout will be short.”
The IceCaps’ training camp begins Oct. 1 in Corner Brook. St. John’s first regular-season game is Oct. 12.