Archive for April, 2009

The draft: Who would you take?

We are back folks. Had a nice long weekend. Watched some playoff hockey (and a bunch of other sports). Looks like the Rangers are in trouble of blowing a 3-1 series lead. The Devils didn’t look good Sunday night either. What are your thoughts on tonight’s Ducks-Sharks Game 6?

Let’s talk the draft today. My interview requests of  owner Bruce Levenson have been declined, so we’ll keep working the phones and get to other issues facing the team at a later date.

I must admit, I have to get up to speed on the draft. I know John Tavares and Victor Hedman. However, since the Thrashers are picking No. 4, neither will be around.

Until I get a chance to talk to Don Waddell and pick his brain about draft philosophy, etc., let’s just play general manager for the fun of it.

Anyone else think they go with an offensive player at No. 4? Got Zach Bogosian last year, that’s a big piece of defense. It’s no secret that the Thrashers need/want help for Ilya Kovalchuk.

Here is my list of contenders …

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A matter of introduction

Fear not Thrashers fans. You have a new beat writer.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Chris Vivlamore and I will be your connection to the Thrashers. Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I have been at the AJC for more than six years. For the last five years I have been the Pro Sports Editor at the paper, overseeing coverage of the Thrashers, Hawks, Braves, Falcons and a little golf now and then. That means at one time I supervised former Thrashers beat writers Mike Knobler, Craig Custance and John Manasso – names you might be familiar with.

I am originally from upstate New York. West Point and the United States Military Academy would be the nearest landmark. My parents grew up farther north, 15 miles south of the Canadian border – one town over from Zach Bogosian’s hometown. So, I grew up playing a lot of pond hockey where old couch cushions served as goalie pads. I also spent more than one Thanksgiving morning at 5 a.m. renting out the local civic center for …

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Stuart named to U.S. roster

Colin Stuart, king of the shorthanded goal, is joining Thrashers teammates Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey on the U.S. team for the World Championships in Switzerland.

You can find the entire roster here: http://usahockey.cachefly.net/Media/041509MWCroster.doc

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Who would you pick at No. 4?

Well, the Thrashers didn’t win the draft lottery, and they weren’t hurdled by anyone behind them, either. Sort of anticlimactic, but it’s hard to argue the Islanders don’t need the No. 1 pick more.

If Evander Kane is available, do the Thrashers take him? Lots of offense there.

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Armstrong to play for Canada

The latest addition the list of Thrashers players going to Switzerland for the World Championships: Colby Armstrong. Armstrong has done this before. He scored the game-winning goal in the gold medal game in 2007 for Canada.

Other Thrashers in the tournament include Ilya Kovalchuk of Russia, U.S. player Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey, Tobias Enstrom with Sweden and Boris Valabik with Slovakia.

The players had their final meetings with the coaches today. Hainsey, Enstrom, Kovalchuk, Armstrong, Slava Kozlov and Anssi Salmela skated, too. I will have a little more later. I’m writing a summer look-ahead story.

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Optimistic or skeptical?

The Thrashers  finished strong. I’m going to write a season wrap-up for Tuesday’s newspaper (posted on the Web site sometime Monday) after a day to think things over. I’m curious if you guys go into the summer thinking things will get better or that the Thrashers will be unable to carry their season-ending momentum into the fall.

For now, though, let me give  you something to think about. Red Wings scout Glenn Merkosky had a seat in the press box Saturday night. Now, the Thrashers and the Lightning aren’t in the playoffs, so who was he looking at? Kari Lehtonen, perhaps. Remember, the Red Wings were rumored to be interested in Lehtonen at the trade deadline. The Thrashers have a goalie surplus. And Lehtonen was playing for the first time this month. … Of course, Merkosky might have been looking at a player on the Lightning, for all I know. But if he was looking at Lehtonen, he had to be impressed.

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Lehtonen, Oystrick to play finale

The Thrashers liked what they saw from Clay Wilson in two games but have sent him back to Chicago, making room for Nathan Oystrick to play Saturday night against Tampa Bay.

Kari Lehtonen starts in goal for the final game of the season.

The team had its last practice today and ended it with a shootout competition, with the defensemen and the top line of Kovalchuk, White and Little trying to score on Johan Hedberg and the rest of the forwards trying to score against Lehtonen. Garnet Exelby scored the game-winning goal.

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Awards night tonight

Two awards presentations are scheduled for before tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers. Ilya Kovalchuk will win the Three Stars of the Game award for the second consecutive season and the third time overall. The Player’s Player Award also will be presented; Johan Hedberg won it each of the past two seasons.

Hedberg is starting in goal tonight. Kari Lehtonen is his backup. Ondrej Pavelec is under the weather and did not take part in the morning skate. The rest of the lineup is the same as it was for Tuesday’s game against the Capitals, with Clay Wilson playing his second game for the Thrashers and Nathan Oystrick again being scratched. Lehtonen said he might play on Saturday. Anssi Salmela, who worked out with Lehtonen before Wednesday’s practice, also took part in today’s skate.

Any guesses about who will win the Player’s Player Award? Hedberg would seem the favorite.

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Wilson to play tonight

Defenseman Clay Wilson, called up from Chicago yesterday, makes his Thrashers debut tonight against the Washington Capitals. Nathan Oystrick will be scratched to make room in the lineup. My guess would be that Wilson plays alongside Garnet Exelby, leaving the Ron Hainsey-Boris Valabik and Tobias Enstrom-Zach Bogosian pairings intact, but Thrashers coach John Anderson left his options open in his interview after the morning skate.

Oystrick has had a couple of tough games lately, but Anderson went out of his way to say he was sitting Oystrick because he had to sit someone and not because of anything Oystrick did.

Wilson has played 12 career NHL games, including five this season for Columbus. He came to the Thrashers along with a sixth round pick in a January trade for Jason Williams.

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Wilson called up

The Thrashers have called up defenseman Clay Wilson, and he could turn into an interesting story. Wilson came to the organization along with a sixth-round draft pick in the trade that sent Jason Williams to Columbus. At the time, the Thrashers viewed him as a “depth defenseman,” a guy who could fill a need for the Chicago Wolves.

But Wilson might be more than that. He had 24 points (5 goals, 19 assists) in 35 games with the Wolves. When you add in the 8 goals and 20 points in 33 games he had with the Syracuse Crunch, Wilson is tied for third among AHL defensemen in goals and tied for seventh among AHL
defensemen in points.

If Wilson has what it takes to help the Thrashers, that would be quite a pickup. Remember, Williams’ spot was filled by Rich Peverley, a move that worked out fantastic for Atlanta. If jettisoning Williams ends up bringing another player, that’s a bonus.

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