Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burmistrov best thing about Jets, so far

Slick centreman, 19, playing with poise of wily veteran

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OTTAWA -- Another night and another point for Alexander Burmistrov, one of the few bright lights in the Winnipeg Jets lineup right now.

The second-year pro picked up an assist in Winnipeg's 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators Thursday and now leads the Jets in points with one goal and four assists through six games.

The argument can be made that he's been Winnipeg's best player to date and at age 19 there's endless upside with the young Russian centre.

"He's been our best forward since the season started. A 19-year-old player is our best player," said Jets coach Claude Noel.

"He's the one guy I'm happy with. Every time he's on the ice he's dangerous and he creates stuff. You certainly can't fault what he's brought to the table."

Burmistrov spent last season in Atlanta, scoring six goals and 14 assists in 74 games in a mostly defensive role.

But he's blossomed into an offensive threat and midway through Thursday's game, when Noel moved Kyle Wellwood off Burmistrov's line and replaced him with Andrew Ladd, became the team's No. 1 centre.

Burmistrov, who has had fellow Russian Nik Antropov on his wing since the season's outset, wasn't interested in platitudes following the loss.

"Right now it's more important for me to win the game. I don't really care about my points. We need to win the game," said Burmistrov, who played one year of major junior in Canada with the Barrie Colts in 2009-10, scoring 22 goals and 43 assists in 62 games.

A swift skater with excellent puck-handling skills, Burmistrov has high hockey intellect and sees the ice better than most.

"He's been one of our best forwards. He gets around the ice well, he's shifty and he's been doing a good job of going forward with the puck," said defenceman Mark Stuart.

"He's been doing a better job of moving forward and when he does turn up, he finds people. He sees the ice real well and when the puck is on his stick it seems like it's on a string."

Burmistrov looks like a high schooler with wispy facial hair and a slight frame, standing 6-1 and 180 pounds.

"For a little body, he does a pretty good job of protecting the puck and taking hits because guys are taking runs at him," said Stuart. "It was big for him to play here last year. He's a young kid and he's matured pretty fast. He's got a ways to go but he's definitely ahead of the curve."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2011 C2

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