11 for 6: Alex Burmistrov
Here's an interesting statistic. Actually, here's several interesting statistics. Did you know that of the ten leading scorers in the NHL last season, eight (80%) were players who were selected with top ten picks? Only Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards weren't high draft picks. Of the league's top twenty scorers, sixteen (80%) were taken within the first twenty picks of the draft, with the only other exceptions being Paul Stastny and Corey Perry. In other words, eighty percent of the league's top scoring talent comes from within the top twenty picks of the draft, and the lion's share of those players comes from the top ten picks. Therein lies the lure for any scouting staff when they have a high draft pick like the Lightning do this season. It's a rare opportunity for any club to add a premiere scorer.
Simply put, forwards play a simpler game and it is easier to identify the best ones at a young age. As a consequence, teams tend to snap up most of the really good ones early on in drafts. Defensemen and goaltenders mature later in their careers due the complexity of their positions and the fact that those positions are far more about mental maturity than just pure athleticism and hand-eye coordination. As a consequence, it's far more likely to find top flight defensemen and netminders outside of the top twenty picks of the draft. Consider the top twenty scorers from the blueline in the NHL last season, where only seven of those players (35%) were selected in the top twenty of the draft: Drew Doughty, Chris Pronger, Sergei Gonchar,Tomas Kaberle, Tyler Myers, Scott Niedermayer, and Joni Pitkanen. Between the pipes, of the top twenty goaltenders in wins in the NHL this season, only three (15%) were selected in the top twenty picks of the draft: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury.
That's what makes it so difficult, in our opinion, for any club sitting outside of the top couple of picks in any given draft to select a defenseman or a goaltender. Unless a team has an opportunity to select a sure-fire number one defenseman, like the Lightning had with Victor Hedman last season, or number one goaltender, the odds of being wildly successful seem to be much better on the forward side of the ledger. Moreover, for the team looking for a defenseman or a goaltender, they can be sure the pickings are much better to find one from picks twenty one on than for the team looking for a top-flight scorer.
The Tampa Bay Lightning pick sixth in the 2009-2010 NHL Entry Draft, and the consensus of the NHL scouting community seems to be that of the four non-forwards likely to go in the top ten picks, only goaltender Jack Campbell and defenseman Cam Fowler seem to have the potential to end up among the league leaders at their position once they develop and become regulars in the league. Meanwhile, there are seven forwards that we have identified as draft possibilities for the Lightning that all have significant NHL scoring potential and draw comparisons to past and present NHL superstars like Saku Koivu, Mark Recchi, Brendan Shanahan, Eric Staal, and Patrick Marleau. What is a scouting staff to do?
In terms of the Lightning's organizational situation at the forward position, they boast one of the best young forwards in the game in Steven Stamkos and a handful of good prospects, particularly on right wing, but much work needs to be done to improve the overall depth at the forward positions. Behind Stamkos and veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier, there's a lack of pure, natural scoring centermen in the organization. Players like Johan Harju, Alex Killorn, and Alex Hutchings have played some center over the past couple of seasons, but only the occassionally enigmatic Mitch Fadden has been a full time pivot since being selected by the Bolts.
On left wing, the Lightning have Harju, who has often drawn comparisons to countryman Johan Franzen and seems a likely option to make the team next season. If Harju fails to adapt to North America, though, the team will be in big trouble along the left side where all they'll have is Brian Gionta clone Alex Hutchings and part time left winger Dana Tyrell. Hutchings has a ton of speed, skill, and character, but the prevailing thought is that the diminuitive forward will need a season or two to build up his body and learn to adjust to the more physical pro game. As speedy as he is, Hutchings may be no match in a race for Tyrell, whose speed and acceleration have only improved after having his knee surgically reconstructed a year ago. Tyrell led the Norfolk Admirals in assists last season after an incredible second half where he routinely posted multi-point nights. Do not be surprised if he makes the Lightning straight out of camp in the Fall. Harvard's Killorn can also play left wing and has shown well in prospect camps over the past couple of seasons. He has drawn comparisons to Brian Rolston in the past.
Right wing is the Lightning's deepest forward position in terms of prospects. Power forward Carter Ashton looked surprisingly strong and had deceptive burst in an amateur tryout with Norfolk at the end of last season following a somewhat disappointing junior campaign. GM Steve Yzerman has already talked the 2009 first round pick up as a scoring line option for next season. Behind Ashton is Slovakian winger Richard Panik, who might aptly be described as a boy trapped in a man's body. Panik is freakishly strong, despite somewhat suspect training habits, and his natural skillset seems to match that of NHL star Marian Hossa. Because of that strength, Panik can't be ruled out to make the Lightning next season either, especially after a solid World Championships for Slovakia in the Spring. Rounding out the group is Tyrell, who can play either wing position, and has been compared to Columbus forward Antoine Vermette.
In other words, the Lightning have two or three nice prospects at each forward position, with the exception perhaps being center, but they don't necessarily have any budding sure-fire NHL superstars in the group. That's why it will probably be very tempting for the Lightning to select one of seven forwards Bolt Prospects has identified as legitimate options for the club at the sixth pick.
Name: Alex Burmistrov
Born: 10/21/91, Kazan, Russia
Last Team: Barrie (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 11 (NA Skaters), ISS 12 (Skaters), RLR 12 (Overall), THN 6 (Overall)
Barrie (OHL), 62 GP, 22-43-65, +32, 49 PIM
Barrie (OHL) Playoffs, 17 GP, 8-8-16, +11, 22 PIM
Russia (U20 WJC), 6 GP, 3-1-4, +2, 6 PIM
Where this draft becomes intriguing is with the forwards once Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin go off the board. Teams differ on how they rank the three top defensemen in this draft, but it would be shocking if any of them fell past the seventh or eighth pick. With the forwards, though, itâ€™s much more wide open, as in the case of Alex Burmistrov out of Barrie. Burmistrov is a speedy, creative playmaker who the Lightning got to see plenty of as a teammate of Lightning prospect Alex Hutchings. Burmistrov is very creative and never takes a shift off, but heâ€™s also ridiculously small at 157 lbs, as listed by the NHL Central Scouting Service, and at a touch under 6 feet tall thereâ€™s not much frame for Burmistrov to put weight onto. The Lightning have gotten lucky with a player like this in the past, as Harvardâ€™s Alex Killorn was listed as being light as a feather in his draft year, but Killorn was the youngest player in his draft class while Burmistrov is one of the oldest. Compounding the issue is the fact that Burmistrov is a Russian born player, and while the recent labor situation in the KHL has highlighted that perhaps the NHL can still compete with the once cash flush Kontinential League, the fact remains that it takes guts for a team to use a top-10 pick on a Russian player. The hard truth is that if he isnâ€™t a scoring line NHLer in two or three years, he could simply cut and run for Ak Bars Kazan in a heartbeat, leaving the NHL club that selects him with nothing for their top draft pick. All Europeans, and especially Russians, seem reluctant in recent years to spend time developing in the AHL or on the lower lines in the NHL when there's more money to be made and more glory to be had closer to home. The Lightning do need more playmakers in their system, and some see shades of Pavel Datsyuk in Burmistrov, but his size issues and the specter of the KHL loom large in making him the teamâ€™s selection. Still, there's a possibility the Lightning could have interest in Burmistrov's world class acceleration, vision, and quick, soft hands.