Should he stay or go? Atlanta Thrashers forward Alex Burmistrov

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

First up: Atlanta Thrashers forward Alex Burmistrov.

The Basics

  • Burmistrov was drafted eighth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He is tiny, at 5’1″ and 170 lbs.
  • He will play in his ninth game against the Rangers tonight.
  • Basic stats: zero points in eight games played.
  • He’s average a little under 15 minutes per night.
  • Burmistrov’s junior rights belong to the Barrie Colts in the OHL

What people are saying about him

If you ask Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, he’s almost guaranteed to stay at the NHL level. Here’s what Dudley said to the Sporting News.

“It’s 99 percent that we’ll keep him,” Dudley said. “There’s never been any talk of sending him back.”

There’s been growing speculation that Burmistrov, a center, might be headed back to OHL Barrie because he’s still looking for his first NHL point, but that speculation isn’t coming from the Thrashers’ front office. Dudley has been impressed with Burmistrov’s play without the puck, his efforts on defense and his strong play in key situations.

“He’s been one of our three or four top forwards every game,” Dudley said. “We’re not worried about points.”

James’ take:

I haven’t been able to watch every game very closely, so maybe Burmistrov really has been useful on defense and is “strong in key situations.”

It’s still difficult to get over that whole zero points thing. Why not let Burmistrov get an extra year of seasoning – and maybe improve his scoring confidence by playing in the minors – instead of burning an entry-level year in which the team is still a work in progress?

This isn’t a slam dunk, but I’m going with my gut on this one.

James’ verdict: Send him down.

Joe’s take:

Burmistrov is an interesting character. He hasn’t been thrown to the wolves to play on a top two scoring line. In fact, he’s been playing on the fourth line with a pair of grinders in Ben Eager and Chris Thorburn.  Burmistrov doesn’t have any points this season but he’s still played relatively well and it reflects upon his linemates as Thorburn has three goals and an assist  while Eager has a goal and a helper. He’s getting steady time on the ice, averaging over 14 minutes a game so he’s not being buried on the bench. Still, you’d like to see him do a bit more for himself offensively and that hasn’t happened as of yet. Perhaps he needs a few more games to get it going, but perhaps he just needs to grow up a little bit more. There’s a lot of hope and potential here for Burmistrov and getting him to develop the right way is important for Atlanta. The memories of former top pick Patrick Stefan failing to live up to his potential are still lingering as a reminder.

Joe’s verdict: Begrudgingly, send him down.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.