Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel is downplaying any rift that may have existed between him and forward Alexander Burmistrov.

In his first public comments since Burmistrov left the Jets to play in Russia’s KHL, Noel shrugged off suggestions by Burmistrov’s agent that the relationship between the 21-year-old and his coach was a factor.

“He’s elected to change locations to advance his career — I guess that’s what he believes,” Noel, speaking at the Jets development camp, said Thursday. “But I don’t really have any comment on what somebody else says. If Alexander had problems with me, he’s never mentioned it to me. He’s played two years here, has played a lot of minutes for us and a lot of situations.”

A restricted free agent, Burmistrov this month signed a two-year deal with his hometown AK Bars Kazan, paying him $2 million-plus per season.

At the time, his Russian agent, Yuri Nikolaev, told the Winnipeg Sun that friction with Noel “was one of the reasons why he left.”

Chosen eighth overall by Atlanta in the 2010 NHL draft, Burmistrov posted a disappointing four goals and 10 points in 44 games last season.

He was also banished to the press box as a healthy scratch for four games.

“I would have liked to see him do some things differently that would have helped him further his career,” Noel said, adding he doesn’t know enough about the KHL to know if Burmistrov may benefit from it.

“He talked about getting his confidence and stuff like that,” the coach said. “If that’s what he feels, and that’s where he feels he needs to play, he needs to make that decision. It’s hard for me to say the KHL will do this or won’t do this. I mean, Evander Kane’s a guy that didn’t have much success there but certainly had success here.