IT'S Alex Burmistrov's goal to take the next step in his development in Winnipeg, not St. John's.
And so, no offence to the IceCaps and the American Hockey League, but the young Russian has his fingers crossed the NHL lockout can be resolved ASAP.
Over the weekend Burmistrov was assigned to the AHL by the Jets, a move that came as he is still on an entry-level contract and because the club wants to monitor his development under the watchful eye of IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge and his staff. But Burmistrov had also pitched returning to his hometown of Kazan to play for the Ak-Bars Kazan Snow Leopards of the KHL, the organization he played for before coming to North America.
"I was waiting for that, to see what they 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 spent all three of his years as a pro in the NHL, having now played in 150 games -- including 76 last year in which he posted career highs in goals (13) and points (28). He finished the year as the Jets' No. 2 centre, but did struggle to find consistency in his game.
Jets brass feels Burmistrov, who doesn't turn 21 until next month, could benefit from an extended stint with the IceCaps.
Asked Monday 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."
BIG BUFF IN ACTION: Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is skating with a number of Minnesota Wild and NHL players in Minneapolis in scrimmages being run by agents Ben Hankinson an d Chris McAlpine.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, today they hope to hire referees for more structured games.
WAITING FOR THE PHONE TO RING: One of the pros skating at the Iceplex is unrestricted free agent Eric Fehr, who did not have his contract renewed by the Jets.
"I'm in the same situation as a lot of players -- I'm just looking for somewhere to play," Fehr said. "I've been looking everywhere, in the NHL, over in Europe and in the American league. All options are open right now."
As for a possible return to the Jets?
"I wouldn't say it's closed," said Fehr, "but it's not something we're really looking at. If they came to me and wanted me to come back I'd have to take a good look at it and see if it was a good option for me."
A one-time 20-goal scorer with Washington, the Jets traded for Fehr last summer. But hampered by shoulder injuries, he suited up for just 35 games in Winnipeg, registering two goals and one assist.
Fehr said his shoulder is much better after a summer of rehab.
"It wasn't feeling its best last season, but I've done a lot of work on it and it's feeling a lot better."
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