A look at another scary young team
Well people seem to be in the mood to analyze the young talent involved in some of the expansion teams so I decided to submit my view of my favorite “scary young team”, the Thrashers. .
Let’s start in goal. Everyone knows about Kari Lehtonen and I think it’s safe to say he may very well be the real deal. In his first four games (ok, may not be relevant but still impressive for a defence that allowed 243 total goals!) posted 4 wins, 1 shutout and a 1.25 GAA. Plus, this guy is just so big, mobile and talented, it would be hard for him not to become a solid starter. Jani Hurme is a decent backup that is good for 25-30 games per year. As far as Pasi Nurminen goes, I think they might be holding onto him for insurance purposes or maybe trade bait. Otherwise, don’t expect him to be around much longer.
On D we got a great up-and-comer in Braydon Coburn, a solid, smooth skating 2-way defenceman. Add to that hard hitting duo Garnett Exelby and Tomas Kloucek. The powerplay seems to be in good shape with Jaroslav Modry and Niklas Havelid. Daniel Tjarnquist can see some playing time on the 2nd and 3rd pairings. Ivan Majesky and Andy Sutton are big guys who can get their nose dirty. Finally, there’s this Boris Valabik kid who could be the next Zedno Chara. CHL calls him: ” 6’7″ and 228 pounds of nasty disposition. The hardest and most feared player from his draft class”. There have been questions regarding his overall skill and puck handling ability but he is almost a sure-to-be NHL-er just because of sheer toughness. As you can see, there is some good depth on defence and a good selection of young talent to choose from.
Up front, on the left we have Ilya Kovalchuk, a no brainer as top line LW. Then there is experienced and reliable Viacheslav Kozlov. I say reliable because he hardly misses a game and is a steady 20+ goal scorer year in, year out. He could very well share the 2nd line position with Shawn McEachern, a proven veteran who can put up some numbers although now he tends to rack up the assists more than the goals, a tendancy that seems to come with age. However, this does not decrease his overall efficiency. Kip Brennan and Francis Lessard will share time as 4th line enforcers. Brad Larsen will be an occasionnal dress and will probably end up in the AHL before long.
Down the middle, top line, Marc Savard. If he wouldn’t have been injured, would have given St-Louis a run for his money for the scoring race. Obviously, playing alongside guys like Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk will help you rack up some numbers but he plays to a similar style as Martin St-Louis. Practically same size and speed, their skill ain’t all that different either. St-Louis has Modin and Lecavalier/Richards to play with, not exactly bad company as well. Patrick Stefan is slowly evolving into a decent 2 way player and could emerge as their permanent second line center. Serge Aubin is a reliable 3rd line center who can also get on the scoreboard. The 4th line will be Ben Simon’s spot to lose. If he screws it up, the Thrashers can easily replace him as they come a dime a dozen.
On the rights side is where you can find some eventual weaknesses. Aside from Dany Heatley, there is Scott Mellanby who can surprise us, as he has in the past but he’s not getting any younger and it will only be so long before he calls it quits. Ronald Petrovicky, in my opinion, was never given a real chance but then again, I don’t think he has the skill to be more than a 3rd liner. J-P Vigier will probably assume the 4th line role. The depth on the right side ain’t so great but the Thrashers could probably find some payroll room (yes, I went THERE) to sign a good 2nd or 3rd liner. I’m thinking maybe Bondra but he’s likely to resign with Ottawa. Who knows, maybe Demitra?
So there we have it folks. The future doesn’t look to shabby for a team whose division rivals are going through the same “building through draft” phase. It will be interesting to compare them to the equally scary Panthers, in the not so distant future