Alexander Burmistrov: “This time Russia will win the Gold” (Photo © Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
Blue-chip prospect Alexander Burmistrov, in this interview with Andrei Osadchenko of allhockey.ru talks about his experience in the OHL, analyzes his chances in the upcoming WJC and tries to anticipate the tournament’s outcome.
RussianHockeyFans.com offers you a translation:
Q. Recently many talks were about the fact that some guys weren’t released for the WJC. Did you have any talk with the Barrie Colts?
Burmistrov: “I didn’t have a single problem. They were willing to release me already on December 5th to join the camp in Novogorsk and they even bought me the ticket and all was set, but then, three days to the depart, the CHL unexpectedly took the decision not to release me.
Did this affect your preparation in any way?
Burmistrov: “I don’t think so. I prepared in Canada. There was enough time. Now I train a lot with my team and even alone. Generally speaking, I go running in order to increase my endurance.”
How did they greet you while leaving from Barrie?
Burmistrov: (Smiles) “Not long ago we had a team dinner. And there the president of the team said that Della Rovere already left the team and now it’s Burmistrov’s turn to go. He’s going to lose against the Canadians at the WJC. The whole team started laughing. I said that this time it will be the opposite, Russia will beat Canada. They don’t believe in our success. And let them not believe further.”
Team Canada can beat their own record if they will win this year too. This would be their sixth consecutive win. Knowing their preparation process for young players, what do you think it’s the reason of their success?
Burmistrov: “First of all they have a lot of players. They could ice even three teams to any world championship. In Russia simply there is a little number of players. Almost every player plays in the KHL and they said me that the MHL level leaves much to be desired.”
In the OHL you scored 39 points in 31 matches. Is it easy to adapt to this league?
Burmistrov: “It’s not easy at all. I can’t really say that I completed the adaptation period so far. There are these differences: the game is quicker, you need to think faster and there is a lot of physical play. You don’t have that in Russia. But I like playing here. I remember when I was in London last year for the World Junior Under 17 tournament, we attended the December 31st match. The game gave me a big impression and I wanted to play in the OHL. This is why when I got the offer to play here I accepted with pleasure.”
Do you think that the OHL lever is higher than the MHL one?
Burmistrov: “I think yes. Look at the Subway Super Series results. Team Russia was made up mostly of guys from the Russian High League and the MHL. And the Canadians were constantly up. We could have won one math against the OHL selects, but we lacked a bit of luck.”
In what aspect of the game do you think you are improved in during your six months stint in Canada?
Burmistrov: “Speed, fights for the puck and generally in physical play.”
Your team mate Stefan Della Rovere will play in the WJC for Canada. Did you talk with him about the tournament?
Burmistrov: (Smiles) “He’s not simply a team mate, he’s my line mate. I’ll say talking to them about it it’s useless. They will only reply that no one can beat them and that they’ll win whatever will happen.”
But Stefan surely remembers last year’s semifinals, when they beaten Russia only after the shoot-outs.
Burmistrov: “He says that hockey is like that, this year we have no chances. I said him: “Let’s see on January 5th”.”
During the Super Series you did play against him. Is it hard to play against a club mate?
Burmistrov: “Well, no. I’ve “met” him already on the second shift. Then in the locker rooms we laughed about it. And the day after, back with the team, everyone was teasing me.”
In this WJC it looks like Russia won’t have many leaders. Do you think that Grachev’s and Loktionov’s absence weakens the team?
Burmistrov: “Both players are important for the team. Of course we’ll miss them. But we have other players. We’ll see. Maybe we’ll play even better without them.”
It looks like Canada’s leader this year will be Taylor Hall. You know him not only by hearsay. Can you tell us your opinion about this player?
Burmistrov: “I think that their leader isn’t Hall, but Nazem Kadri. Hall has very good partners. They play together with their club and now they’ll play together with the national team too. I’m talking about forwards Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz. They have very good mutual understanding, it’s the second season they play together. They bring a lot of points to their team. Hall is of course a good player, I can’t say anything different. But I think that team Canada’s leader will be Kadri.”
Why do you think that Kadri will be their player to watch?
Burmistrov: “It’s evident. He doesn’t depend on anyone.”
Hall gets on the score sheet every game. What can you suggest to team Russia’s defensemen?
Burmistrov: “Good question. And I don’t know how to reply. Players need to play their way, without thinking that they are facing stars. All the Canadians think they are stars.”
In the Super Series’ third match you reunited with Maxim Kitsyn and paired with him you two created one of the series’ finest goals. Did you sharpen your mutual understanding?
Burmistrov: “Simply we managed to train our mutual understanding during last year’s U18 WJC. During the Super Series we showed our kind of hockey – Russian style. Like when you do multiple passes to find a team mate who’ll score in the empty net. Canadians usually score what they call “ugly goals”, garbage goals.”
You can potentially play in the same line. With Maxim Kitsyn and Evgeny Kuznetsov up front and Nikita Pivtsakin and Nikita Zaitsev on the blue line. Would you like to play in such a unit?
Burmistrov: “Why not? They are excellent partners. All these four guys are true professionals. As far as now I got to know that I’ll play with Vladimir Tarasenko.”
Did you talk about this with Vladimir Plyuschev? Which role is he planning for you in this national team?
Burmistrov: “I think I’ll be among the leaders. It’s needed to lead the team on ice, to give examples. Russia is tired of waiting for a gold medal in this tournament. I really want to win this year. And I’m not alone. I talked some days ago with Nikita Filatov about this and he said the same words.”
The WJC will be played in one of Canada’s colder provinces, Saskatchewan, where the temperatures can get even to -30. Aren’t you scared to freeze?
Burmistrov: (Laughs) “Well, I was born in Russia! In Kazan -30 is a normal temperature in winter.”
The group stage’s last game is scheduled for December 31st, and the next game will be played on January 2nd in another city. Do you think you’ll manage to celebrate the new year?
Burmistrov: “I think that in the national team there will be true professionals. No one will celebrate, everyone will be gearing up for the following game. It’s better to celebrate later, after the WJC. Hopefully with a gold medal around the neck.”
Will you give a present to some of your team mates?
Burmistrov: (Smiles) “If so, only assists for the empty netter!”