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.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”