Alex Burmistrov is Atlanta Thrashers new top prospect

By Kyle West
Thrashers new top prospect Alexander Burmistrov. (Photo courtesy of www.ontariohockeyleague.com

)

Alex Burmistrov is the Thrashers new top prospect. The slick center makes his debut at the top of the prospect list along with fellow 2010 draftees Julian Melchiori and Ivan Telegin. Forward Akim Aliu makes his appearance at the ninth spot on the Thrashers top 20 after being acquired in a trade with Chicago. Newly signed free agent Fredrik Pettersson comes in at number 18 while Danick Paquette cracks the list at number 20. Angelo Esposito stays about where he was while Paul Postma is the biggest upward mover.

Top 20 at a glance:
1. (NR) Alexander Burmistrov, C, 8C
2. (2) Carl Klingberg, RW, 7C
3. (5) Patrice Cormier, C, 7C
4. (6) Spencer Machacek, RW 6.5 B
5. (8) Arturs Kulda, D, 6.5B
6. (7) Eric O’Dell, C, 6.5C
7. (16) Paul Postma, D, 6.5C
8. (9) Angelo Esposito, C, 8D
9. (NR) Akim Aliu, C 7.5 D
10. (10) Daultan Leveille, C, 7D
11. (NR) Julian Melchiori, D 6.5 C
12. (NR) Ivan Telegin, C, 6.5 C
13. (9) Vinny Saponari, LW 6.5 C
14. (14) Alex Kangas, G, 7D
15. (15) Edward Pasquale, G, 6.5C
16. (13) John Albert, C, 6C
17. (20) Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, 6.5C
18. (NR) Fredrik Pettersson, LW, 7D
19. (19) Zach Redmond, D, 6.5D
20. (NR) Danick Paquette, RW, 6C

 

1. (NR) Alexander Burmistrov, C, 18
Drafted 1st round, 8th overall, 2010

An exciting offensive talent, Burmistrov set the OHL alight last season with his speed and creativity. A gifted playmaker with blazing speed, Burmistrov produced at a point per game clip as a rookie with the Barrie Colts and stepped his game up in the playoffs. Despite a slender build, the Russian competes hard in every situation.

Burmistrov drew rave reviews at the prospect camp and will be given a long look at training camp. His chances of making the Thrashers as a rookie must be considered better than fair. However another year in the OHL, to further acclimatize and adapt to North America, would seem to be the sensible route. He draws favorable comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk and projects as a star center who can play in all situations.

2. (2) Carl Klingberg, LW, 19
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2009

Signed to a three-year entry-level contract in June, Klingberg will attend the Thrasher’s training camp in September, but the expectation is that he will return to Sweden for one more year. An intense physical player, Klingberg is well suited for the North American game. However another year in the SEL will help his offense catch up with his physicality. Klingberg is also slated to be a top-line winger for Sweden at the WJC.

At 6’3, Klingberg can be an imposing sight for defenseman as he drives to the net or finishes his checks. Also responsible in his own zone, he projects as an all around winger with good offensive upside.

3. (5) Patrice Cormier, C, 20
Acquired via trade 2010

Cormier will be looking to put last season behind him as soon as possible. In 2009-10 he was traded twice, captain of a heavily criticized Canadian team that failed to win gold at the WJC, and suspended for the rest of the year for a brutal elbow to the face of an opponent. For Cormier, a new start could not happen soon enough.

A relentless competitor with a power forward build, Cormier excels in a hard-checking energy role. Responsible on the defensive end of the ice, he projects as a third line checking center with a good offensive skill-set and a strong competitive fire.

4. (6) Spencer Machacek, RW, 21
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2007

When the Thrashers acquired wingers Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien this summer, Spencer Machacek could have been forgiven a sigh of exasperation. Having worked his way up the depth chart with two solid years in the AHL, Machacek was preparing to compete for a full-time spot with the Thrashers. With the new wingers in town, he is going to fight that much harder to start the year in the NHL.

Machacek is a lead by example type who gives his all on every shift. In his second season as a professional, he posted 20 goals and 29 assists but also added a more physical edge to his game, dropping the gloves on occasions and agitating the opposition. In the playoffs, Machacek stepped it up with 7 goals in 13 games. He projects to be a grinding winger on the bottom six who will create some offense through an energetic two-way game.

5. (8) Arturs Kulda, D, 22
Drafted 7th round, 200th overall, 2006

Ready to challenge for a spot on the Thrashers blue line, Kulda has been the Thrashers prospect with the fastest development c
urve. Taken with the last pick of the draft in 2006, the stocky Latvian came over to the OHL to play with the Peterborough Petes, partnering current Thrasher Zach Bogossian in his second year with the Petes. His first year in the AHL was unremarkable, but last season he was paired with future hall-of-famer Chris Chelios and finished the year with a plus-46, the top plus/minus ranking in the AHL.

A solid defenseman who plays a simple game, Kulda is not flashy but has learned to be effective. In his four games with the Thrashers last year he chipped in two assists, but the Atlanta organization is not looking to Kulda for offense, but for a solid citizen who takes care of his own end.

6. (7) Eric O’Dell, C, 20
Acquired via trade 2009

After a disappointing season in the OHL, finishing near the bottom of the league with the Sudbury Wolves, O’Dell will turn pro this season and look to stick with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. O’Dell carried the load for the OHL Wolves, scoring 63 points in 65 game, despite getting all the attention from opposing defenders. For the Wolves, he will need to show the same ability to fight through traffic and shake off checks.
 
With his outstanding hockey sense and elite stick-handling ability, O’Dell will be an asset to the Chicago powerplay. Like all rookies, his ability to deal with the physical aspects of the AHL will be under scrutiny. O’Dell also needs to work on his foot speed, although reports are that he has progressed in this area.

7. (16) Paul Postma, D, 21
Drafted 7th round, 205th overall, 2007
 
Postma set the record for scoring by a defenseman in his last year of the WHL but found the going a little tougher in the AHL last year. Still filling out his frame, he struggled to contain opposing forwards in his own end and took some time to regain his composure with the puck. However he did show flashes of what makes him a late-round steal, firing home 15 goals and running the power play to great effect.

A good skater for his size, Postma needs only to bulk up and continue to adapt to the speed of the game. His offensive instincts are off the charts and his humble and willing nature makes him very coachable.

8. (9) Angelo Esposito, C, 21
Acquired via trade 2008

Once labeled a future superstar, Esposito may be a prospect who peaked too soon. After scoring 39 goals and 98 points in 57 games as a rookie in the QMJHL he has been in a downward spiral. Suffering consecutive injuries to the same knee, Esposito comes to training camp this year knowing his career can ill afford another setback.

Thrashers fans can draw faith from Esposito’s comeback from adversity in the past. Having been cut three times from Canada’s WJC team, Esposito stuck with it and scored the decisive goal in the gold medal game at the fourth attempt. On that occasion he spoke of his determination and desire; he will need every bit of it to get his career back on track this year.

9. (NR) Akim Aliu, RW, 21
Acquired via trade 2010

A controversial figure in junior, Aliu was suspended by the league for violent play and suspended by his team for indiscipline. He was also famously spurned by his teammates for refusing to participate in a hazing ritual as a freshman. With all the questions about his temperament, there is no doubt about Aliu’s physical blessings. A massive 6’3 winger with a laser beam of a wrist shot, he is a project worth investing in.

Acquired from Chicago in the trade that brought Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta, Aliu fits the mold of power forwards being stockpiled by GM Rick Dudley. His first pro season was largely forgettable, with 11 goals in 48 games at the AHL level before finishing the year in the ECHL, however his talent is still abundant. With the right coaching and proper support from his teammates, Aliu could be a vital part of the Thrashers powerhouse of forwards.

10. (10) Daultan Leveille, C, 20
Drafted 1st round, 29th overall, 2008

Leveille was ranked 48th by the International Scouting Service when he was up for the draft in 2008 and the Thrashers raised more than a few eyebrows when they reached up for him at number 29. A fast skater, Leveille was alarmingly underweight and scouts doubted his hockey sense. His freshmen year with Michigan State University gave credence to those concerns as he finished a minus-19 and was primarily a perimeter player on a poor team.

Leveille’s sophomore year however showed some signs of progression. Appearing in all 38 games for the Spartans, he posted six goals and 19 assists and was a key playmaker on a much improved team. His value to the team was reflected in his plus-14 rating. Still undersized, Leveille will likely finish out his four years of college eligibility before turning pro

11. (NR) Julian Melchiori, D, 18
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, 2010

A big, strong defenseman who is also a smooth skater, Melchiori models his game on Chris Pronger. Playing in all situations with his CCHL team in Newmarket, Ontario, Melchiori will look to compete for ice time this year with U-Mass Lowell. Playing against guys much older than him will be an important test of his physicality and composure.

Scouts project Melchiori as a top-pairing defender if he progresses to his top potential. Calm and assured with the puck, he also doesn’t hesitate to play the body and his skating is good enough to get him out of trouble easily.

12. (NR) Ivan Telegin LW, 18
Drafted 4th round, 101st overall, 2010

A Russian who plays a North American style, Telegin is a big winger who uses his size to good effect and seems to enjoy fighting through traffic. Effective down low on the boards or parked in front of the net, his game is well suited for the NHL and he has shown a commitment to staying on this side of the Atlantic.

His rookie season in the OHL started very brightly but tailed off rather sharply. Named the rookie of the month in October and November, Telegin seemed to run out of steam by the end of the season. Another year to get used to the demanding schedules and constant travel will see him in good stead as he adapts to North America.

13. (9) Vinny Saponari LW, 19
Drafted 7th round, 184th overall, 2009

Saponari had a decent season stat
istically in his sophomore year with the Boston University Terriers but finished the year with a cloud over his head. In May, the Terriers coach dismissed Vinny and his older brother Victor from the team for “conduct unbecoming of a Boston University hockey player.” No further details of the cause of his disgrace were forthcoming despite rampant speculation on the internet.

Saponari had been playing wing on a line with the Terriers leading scorer Nick Bonino and fellow sophomore Chris Connelly and his point totals were decent despite a mid-season scoring slump. His 12 goals and 18 assists in 32 games, combined with a tireless work ethic, had the Thrashers organization quite pleased with his progress. His expulsion will certainly raise some character concerns, however the team is standing behind him and Saponari will likely start the year in the ECHL.
 

14. (14) Alex Kangas, G, 23

Drafted 5th round, 135th overall, 2006

Now entering his senior year with the University of Minnesota, Kangas will look to wrap up his college career the way he began it. Named the MVP of the WCHA tournament as a freshman, Kangas has been a consistent backstop for a team that has been anything but consistent the past few seasons. Hovering around the .500 mark last year, the Golden Gophers relied on their big and agile goalie to keep them in the game most nights and he duly obliged.

A calm and composed goalie with excellent rebound control, Kangas still needs to work on his puck-handling before he can take his game to the next level.
 

15. (15) Edward Pasquale, G, 20

Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2009

Ready to begin his pro career, Pasquale is a highly developed prospect who has faced more than his fair share of shots these past few seasons. One of the busier goalies in the OHL, Pasquale was particularly good in the playoffs against the Kitchener Rangers when he saw more than 40 shots in every match but still extended the series to seven games.

Pasquale has the size that scouts look for in their goalies these days and his glove hand draws rave reviews. He remains calm under fire and seems to thrive on a heavy workload. With the Thrashers AHL affiliate seeming to be set in goal, he will likely get the starter’s job in the ECHL.

16. (13) John Albert, C, 21
Drafted 6th round, 175th overall, 2007

A skilled playmaker, Albert may have peaked playing with the Ohio State Buckeyes. His offensive production was down this year and although he continued to be a leader and responsible two-way player, his progress seems to have halted. An Ohio native, Albert may have been better served by turning pro after his exceptional sophomore year when he scored 39 points in 42 games and led the Buckeyes to 23 wins.

A strong skater, Albert is an undersized center who relies on his quickness. He does have excellent hockey sense and is strong on the faceoff circle. Ohio State has used him in all situations and he has been particularly good on the penalty kill. The 21-year-old is slated to return to the NCAA for his senior year.
      
17. (20) Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, 20
Drafted 7th round, 203rd overall, 2009

A power forward project with size and skill, Jordan Samuels-Thomas was the leading scorer on his NCAA team as a freshman. Skating for Bowling Green University in the CCHA, one of the worst teams in the country last year, he tallied 11 goals and 14 assists in 35 games. Rewarded with a spot on the fan voting list for the Hobey Baker, he will have a new coach next year and has been named as a key player for the Falcons to build around going forward.

For a seventh round draft pick, he has shown remarkable progression. His mix of skill and aggression has the Thrashers dreaming of a late round gem.
 

18. (NR) Fredrik Pettersson, LW, 23
Signed as a Free Agent in June 2010

Petterson will get a second chance at making an NHL team at training camp in September. The Thrashers signed the free agent in June and could look to reunite him with his junior linemate Niclas Bergfors. A high-energy winger with a booming shot, Petterson was fourth in scoring in the Eliteserien with 20 goals. Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, Petterson went unsigned and returned to Sweden. At 5’10, Pettersson is slightly undersized, but plays a fearless style of game.

19. (19) Zach Redmond, D, 22
Drafted 7th round, 284th overall, 2008

Selected as a 20-year-old in the 2008 draft, Redmond has evolved into an intriguing prospect for the Thrashers. A leader on the Ferris State team, Redmond had another solid all-round season as a junior, scoring 6 goals and 27 points in 40 games. A strong skater with good size, Redmond continues to show improved decision making, keeping it simple in his own end and moving up to support the attack when warranted.

The only knock on Redmond has been his physical play, however as he matures into his 6’2 frame he is becoming more adept at handling opposing forwards. Redmond was impressive at the recent prospect camp with his conditioning and focus. Expected to return to play in the NCAA for another year, Redmond could develop into another late-round gem for the Thrashers.


20. (NR) Danick Paquette, RW, 20

Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2008

Paquette turned the corner in his development in 2009-10. Previously a liability, a player who hurt his team with bad penalties, Paquette learned to rein in his emotions and become an effective energy player for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. Still laying out big hits and agitating the opposition, he also started putting the puck in the net, scoring 36 goals in 64 games. The amount of time he spent in the penalty box dropped by half, while his power play goals nearly doubled.

Paquette will likely start his professional career in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves and will look to establish his game on the right side of the liability line. His previous stint with the Wolves, in the 2009 playoffs, Paquette played just sparingly in four games but still managed to rack up 12 penalty minutes.