Tue Oct 05 06:04pm EDT
Hands up, everyone who had Alexander Burmistrov starting the season in the NHL and Erik Gudbranson returning to the Ontario Hockey League.
(You're all liars.)
The NHL CBA can weave a tangled web. In a bit of an 11th-hour twist that was hinted at a few weeks back, third overall choice Gudbranson (bottom photo), is headed home to the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs — and a possible chance to play for Team Canada come late December — after being unable to agree on a contract by the 5 p.m. ET deadline a June draft pick needed to sign by in order to be on an opening night roster. The 18-year-old defenceman was the last first-rounder in limbo after the Atlanta Thrashers announced a couple hours earlier thast centre Alexander Burmistrov (top photo), the No. 8 overall pick from the Barrie Colts, had made the team.
Make no mistake, on merit, Gudbranson won a roster spot. TSN's Darren Dreger tweeted just a few minutes ago that, "Budget restraints stopped Florida from giving Gudbranson the bonuses he was after. He made the team, but is now headed back to the OHL."
The long and short of it is no one can say today how this will affect Gudbranson in the long run. This was business, and the money will be there for him in due time. It's also possible Panthers GM Dale Tallon's rationale might be that it is best not to burn a season off an entry-level contract when his team is still a couple years away from contending for anything noteworthy.
Harvey Fialkov, the Panthers beat writer for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, made it abundantly clear on The Pipeline Show on Tuesday:
"If you heard [Panthers head coach] Pete DeBoer after every game this kid played, he was the only one who played all six exhibition games, he raved about this kid. Not one criticism. And Pete DeBoer, you know he's a very a critical coach. He rarely dishes out non-stop compliments to anybody and this kid is 18 years old. We all expected this kid to get the same treatment [Panthers defenceman] Dmitri Kulikov got last year with at least a nine-game chance and an entry-level contract. It's got to be a monetary thing. They had seven defenceman with one-way deals, including Clay Wilson, who's playing in [AHL] Rochester this year for about $500,000."
" ... He did everything asked of him and more, a physical presence and he stuck up for teammates ... his first NHL shot, albeit in a preseason game, a goal. His second shot, a rebound goal. His first two shots in the first five minutes of his first game resulted in goals. He was second on the team in penalties, second in shots, he did it all ... this kid is a superstar-in-the-making. I guess the Panthers figured, why pay him the money this year if they're not making the playoffs."
Gudbranson still had the full run of training camp, plus the possibility of skating for Team Canada at the world junior championship later this season. (Gudbranson captained Canada at the spring U18 championship which coincides with the Canadian Hockey League post-season. That's an indication of what Hockey Canada sees in him.)
For what it is worth, there is the sentimental value that he will be able to team up with younger brother Alex Gudbranson, 16, a rookie defenceman. In an ideal world, though, the elder Gudbranson would have earned what's coming to him, the same way the third defender selected in June, the Anaheim Ducks' Cam Fowler, did on the other coast.
(Digression: It's more for the NHL side, but the irony is not lost on anyone the Panthers couldn't get their first-round pick signed on the same day NHL commish Gary Bettman denied the team might be primed for relocation, just sayin'.)
From Kingston's perspective, a full season of Erik the Very Gud amounts to manna from Miami. The Doug Gilmour-coached Frontenacs, a mid-pack Eastern Conference team, probably have more of an issue with goal creation than goal prevention so far this season. Gudbranson, whose season debut would presumably come on Friday against East-leading Oshawa, would help with ekeing out those 2-1 and 3-2 wins.
Meantime, how about Burmistrov?
The Russian whom NHL Central Scouting's E.J. McGuire once characterized as having " a venomous strike like a snake when he goes on the offence" was not expected to be a Top 10 pick in June. The smart money seemed to be on him being in the low teens, thanks to question about his size, durability and ability to finish. He played at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds for the Colts, with which he had just 22 goals among his 65 points in his first North American season.
Now playing at about 180 pounds, he just made it impossible for the Thrashers to send him packing, as head coach Craig Ramsay noted.
"He's a great kid and he’s played extremely well ... At this point in time he looks like a National League player. We feel really good about the way he's grown into his role, his progression and his willingness to do whatever it takes." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Burmistrov sticking in Atlanta exacerbates the Colts' woes, as noted on Monday.
However, the Thrashers were hard up for forwards, certainly more so than the Panthers on defence. That's the moral of the story is players get selected by an organization; the draft slot is secondary.
Nos. 1 and 2 picks Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, Fowler, fifth overall selection Nino Niederreiter (New York Islanders) and No. 7 pick Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) are also set to make their NHL debuts.
(Photos by Getty Images.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.