Prospect Camp Day 2 … And contract updates

Just back from Day 2 of Prospect Development Camp. Actually got a chance to watch some skating today. Came away impressed with several players.

On defense, Paul Postma stood out. He can skate. I talked to him afterward and might use it for another story following camp or a blog during the down time of summer.

On offense, Riley Holzapfel stood out. Waddell really expects him to compete for a roster spot during training camp. Others that stood out were draft picks Carl Klingberg and Jeremy Morin. Don’t know much about Andrew Kozek, but he can shoot. Evander Kane looked good. He edged out Daultan Leveille in their group of the dreaded mountain skate drill.

I just finished story on Kane for Sunday paper and will be back at camp on Sunday. My plan is to write features on Klingberg, Morin, Holzapfel and the Saponari brothers. In addition to Postma, I will be chasing down several others that you folks requested last week. I don’t think it will be a problem.

Oh, finally met coach John Anderson today. I’m hoping for a sit down Q&A session with him during camp.

In the contract update department: I spoke to Don Waddell about the players that were offered qualifying offers. Jim Slater accepted his, as we know. Kari Lehtonen hasn’t accepted his, although he can until July 15. Didn’t elect arbitration. Looks like he may just play out this year. Colby Armstrong will go to arbitration. Those cases will be heard from July 20-29. Although he could still re-sign. There have been talks.

Hope that’s a good upate for now. I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

25 comments Add your comment

Tom Davis

July 11th, 2009
6:03 pm

Word on the street is that KANE is SICK.

Sage of Blueland

July 11th, 2009
6:13 pm

Any updates on Donny’s new 20-year plan?

10 years of subsidizing failure…and counting!


July 11th, 2009
6:47 pm



July 11th, 2009
7:01 pm

Chris, good and timely update on Lehtonen. Thank you. I still think Don sees a 3-year deal for Kari, just b/c it gives him some cushion if there are problems with Pavelec and his agent. As long as there’s not an NTC, Don can also trade him, like he hinted that he would. On 680TheFan, for some time now, John Kincade has been suggesting that Kari will be changing addresses, and further, that Kari knows it, too.

It’s fun to speculate, huh? So, Kari didn’t elect arbitration. He’s free to sign an RFA offer. Last year, Don Waddell said, “I hope someone does make him an offer.” Meaning, that the contract would be instantly over when Atlanta simply matched the offer. That’s a question to ask Don Waddell! “Don, do you STILL feel the same way regarding an RFA offersheet for Kari?” More specifically, that you intend to match the terms and length of the contract.


July 11th, 2009
7:30 pm

Thanks for the updates, Chris. Was glad to hear that Espo was up around 200 pounds. Fingers crossed that he’s still strong on his skates when fully back.

Planning to head up there next week, but haven’t figured out when quite yet. Should be fun.


July 11th, 2009
8:09 pm

Thanks for the updates. Great articles on Espo and Kane as well. Really good reads IMO. Keep it up!


July 11th, 2009
9:18 pm

Kane is sick (aka awesome). Pasquele the goalie was stopping everything… til Kane started on him. Two top shelfers. His speed, energy and shot all unbelievable. I was there the whole time, he by far is the best player in this camp. Plus he was super cool with the fans.

Kozek was great as well. I’ve watched him while he was at ND. He might be a sleeper this season or next. I disagree on Klingburg. He was fighting the puck. Was lost at times. He needs seasoning.

Good to see Bolton and Thorburn at the rink as well.

I recommend everyone get out to the Duluth. Great free entertainment. Plus plenty of autographs for the kids.


July 11th, 2009
9:23 pm

Thrashers27 SICK = SLICK

These guys are all BIG. There are no 5-8, 5-9 prospects in this group and only a couple under six feet.


July 11th, 2009
11:57 pm

Thanks for the frequent updates Chris. Keep up the good work. We’re loving it!


July 12th, 2009
12:45 am

Nice job Chris! If you get a chance to talk with Waddell again, I’d be curious to know how many open roster spots he thinks there will be for training camp? If two or three “prospects” like Holzapfel, Kane, or someone else make such an impression they earn a spot, where would DW realistically put them with only the 3rd line left wing spot questionably open at the moment? More wondering if he would tip his hat about other guys already with contracts, but without the upside and cheaper contracts as the prospects.


July 12th, 2009
10:02 am

Seriously, it’s getting closer. Brendan, please God get Letemin out while we can! Trade him while some of his “potential” is still there! I’m not saying I have a better answer, but it ain’t him. If Kane is ready, they ought to put him on the 1 – 2 line.

R. Stroz

July 12th, 2009
11:24 am

Thoughts from prospect camp yesterday:

1) Kane could quite possibly make the team. He is tough, smooth, and has sniper qualities, definitely a rare mixture. Kane will most likely be this year’s Bogosian.

2) Morin can shoot with the velocity and accuracy of Kovalchuk. When he does miss the net, you think the glass is going to break.

3) Klingberg didn’t impress as much as I expected. Then again, there were no hitting drills.

4) Keep an eye on Kozak. This guy may be the sleeper of the prospects. He has pinpoint accuracy and a knack for making the right move at the right time. Before prospect camp yesterday, I had never heard of Kozak; however, by the end of the day, I just laughed at the d-men trying to stop him.

5) Daultan Leveille has great speed but lacks finishing skills and is hesitant to draw contact. The guy reminded me of Afinogenov. He is exciting to watch bit accomplishes very little.


July 12th, 2009
11:36 am

Went out on Friday (and will see the scrimmage today). I mostly focused on a couple specific players during the sessions. Most notably in the second group on Leveille and O’Dell. Was really impressed with Leiveille’s skating – he’s got lots of speed.O’Dell was speedy on forward drills but struggled some with his backward skating.

Pasquale was most impressive. He has a nice set of skills, from his glove saves to his lateral movement. His consistency in applying them seemed a bit off but then again it was day one of camp and just routine drills. I’ll be looking forward to what he does in a game setting during the scrimmage today.


July 12th, 2009
12:23 pm

Was at the practice yesterday. Lot of fun. Kane looked smooth and quicker than most. I left my program there but #51 has some game. Can anybody tell me who he is?
Also, to the woman in the pink shirt and jacket you are a jerk. Standing in front of everyone and even after being asked nicely would not move. At least the husband moved, I feel for ya buddy.

Chris Vivlamore

July 12th, 2009
1:07 pm

hollywould: No. 51 is Mike Forney. He was a third-round pick in 2006.

RStroz: Agree totally on Kozek. I kept looking down at my roster. He impressed my on Saturday. Eager to see more today.

Check back in later from camp.

Chris Vivlamore

July 12th, 2009
1:14 pm

Nate: Thanks for the kind words. They are appreciated.


July 12th, 2009
1:21 pm

Thanks Chris, Keep up the good work.


July 12th, 2009
3:01 pm

Ben, I certainly respect the argument that says, “There’s ample evidence that Kari can’t stay healthy enough to be thought of as a truly elite goaltender.” There’s certainly evidence to suggest Kari lacks mental toughness, after about six straight starts. I can’t deny those things. But, at the same time, I think, like ANY goalie, he’d improve with a better blueline and “team scheme” in front of him. I’ve heard it argued that the 2009-10 Thrashers blueline stands, as is, as the “best defensive group yet assembled” in Thrashers history. Iffff that’s true, it’d be interesting to see if Kari starts to look like a 2nd overall pick, or if … well … nothing has changed. And we hear excuse-filled statements like “monkey pucks,” and my personal favorite, “The ice was too slippery” escape Kari’s lips. I laugh, even now, at that.

Ben, my fear is … gosh darn it, we’ve invested 7 years in this goalie … I’d hate for some other team to be beneficiary of his grooming here in Atlanta. I suspect Braydon Coburn told the Flyers, “Remember when they said I sucked in Atlanta? Well, Kari doesn’t suck, either. Trade for him.” Or he maybe Coburn said nothing at all. But the Flyers allegedly offered us 2nd overall pick James vanRiemsdyk for him at the trade deadline last year. Obviously, that deal never happened. And, perhaps, was merely a rumor and never offered at all.

If Kari flourishes elsewhere, it’d be very frustrating. Not just that it happened. But that … he was supposed to be “THE ANSWER” in the Atlanta net. I sometimes wonder … “what GOOD are these lottery picks … if we don’t USE them? Or they don’t materialize into anything. Stefan is long gone, an unfortunate career at 3rd line Center. Heatley was moved for a temporary solution named Hossa. Who never wanted to play here. Kovalchuk’s future hangs in the balance of the offseason machinations. Stay tuned, there. Kari’s next, at 2002. And unless his trade brings forth something along the EXPECTATION LEVEL of a lottery draft pick, then that pick was wasted, too. Which brings us to Zach Bogosian and now Evander Kane. These guys can’t get traded out of here. They’ve got to be developed and kept. Proactively.

Ben, I’m sure you’re not alone in thinking, “The Kari experiment has failed. Salvage what you can.” I’m tired of salvaging. We tried to salvage what we could of Heatley, via Hossa, at the 2008 Trade Deadline. We tried to get “something” for Stefan. We got Niko Kapanen and Will O’Neill, who is at prospect camp. Savard walked for nothing. No salvaging there. Kaberle walked for nothing. No salvaging there. And, if you can take Waddell at his word, there’ll be no salvaging for Kovalchuk, either.

Looking back, answering truthfully, wasn’t Heatley going to be the foundation? And Kovalchuk the roof? And Lehtonen the watchdog that kept out all the danger, of the figurative “House of Thrashers?” What the heck happened to that plan?

Sage of Bluesland

July 12th, 2009
3:26 pm

Well stated, Brendan…I believe the final excuse for bumbling Donny rests on the glass-groin and mind of Kari Lehtonen…After all, Donny blustered about getting the player he wanted all along when selecting the Finnish teen (forgoing the player I wanted, Rick Nash, as Donny dealt with his buddy and promised not to take the strong power forward). We were promised this kid was the missing piece to being a contender. We were asked to wait–and wait–and wait while this kid matured.

Promises, promises. Buffoonish Don still collects a hefty paycheck. It must be nice! (there’s a haiku in there somewhere, you know?)


July 12th, 2009
3:57 pm

This year, Kari must prove that he can step up and perform. In the past I gave him a bit of a pass because of his youth. He’s now old enough and experienced enough to tow the line and that’s what he is paid to do. We’ve all heard how even the great Marty Brodeur took time to mature. Now is Kari’s time to prove that wants to be a Thrasher.


July 12th, 2009
4:45 pm

Brendan, you are one of the most respected voices on this blog. I’m just agreeing to disagree. Let me address the last point first. What happened to the plan was Heatley was a selfish child. Now all the NHL knows it. He used an accident to skip town. Don bungled that. He never should have put a franchise player who was about 24 in a situation where he drives himself from a party. Savard may still be here if it weren’t for Don’s decession not to sign him while his price was low. Braydon Coburn’s trade to philly, to the extent that you feel results in the standings have any bearing on Don’s job, was little more than a desperate move to when on the original timetable which would have come to pass had Heatley stayed, and Savy signed when his market was down. Braydon Coburn wasn’t bad that was Waddy covering his @ss after a trade he, I, you, and anyone else who pays attention knew would have to go south. We traded Stefan too late to get good replacements. We didn’t see what was in front of us the whole time, just the “potential”. He was rushed up and it damaged him. As an ex GK from another sport, I can say that some goals are not the goalie’s fault. But most are. Kari is not the dominant athlete a lot of people thought he was and the org. knows it too. This is why Hedberg has a two-year deal, and why Pavs made a stink last year. Don’s original plan is blocking the path of Pav’s career. I would argue that that same “plan” ended Pasi’s career. Would he have gone to Finland, a guy w/ balky knees, if he was told that he needed to stay behind because he was the no. 1?

Sage brings up a good point. Which is this: When Don drafted him Kari was a child. We’re being told this man has enormous potential. Well seven years down the road, I think Kari’s numbers are better than Pasi’s. Bear in mind, Pasi didn’t play as long. Life marches on.

The Kovy situation. I want him signed by this team for five years, at least. If trading him, trade him now this will max out value. If Kovy is not signed by October, he won’t come back.

I look forward to reading more of your posts. I hope the above clears up my views on the first 10 years of Le Thrash.


July 12th, 2009
5:23 pm

Just back from today’s 4 on 4 prospect “game”. Postma continues to impress on D. Head up, poised, tough, big, har & low shot. Redmond and Hozapfel looked ok…Mahacheck too…but I expect more from them at this point. Klingberg had a beauty of a drive to the net and score. Seemed to have the puck a lot. Quick. Morin looked good too. O’Dell was in the mix a few times.

Jimmy Bubnick might be a steal as a 6th rounder. The kid was all over the place, two goals and an assist I think.

Leveille is a good “skills” guy…fast.

Kane is polished. Looked Ok. Best play of his for me was when he turned it over at the blueline, raced back on D and with a nice back check & stick lift to disrupt the rush. Seems to have no fear of traffic and getting in the middle of the slot on the offensive end.


July 12th, 2009
5:52 pm

although the AJC has done it before, I would love to see another article on the Thrashers fans in this so called Southern”non-hockey town”. This write in and others prove that Atlanta fans follow there team on and off the ice…


July 12th, 2009
6:32 pm

Ben, that was a very good and thought-provoking post. And feel free to disagree with me anytime. I don’t own the truth. And I don’t know anyone who does. Your argument is sound. “You’ve seen enough of Kari in the Thrasher net, before the ‘potential’ aspect of his career evaporates, trade him. While we still can.” I suspect there’s a lot of support for that theory. And if the “goaltender market” were high, I’d suspect we’d hear SCREAMING for the trade, if the return sounded good. Had we made the deal for vanRiemsdyk, rubbin’ chin, I’d be wondering why Philly wanted to ditch him so badly. That’s a 2nd overall pick from 2007. I think Philly endured something like a 56 or 57-point season to be in that position. Did the Flyers screw up that pick? Or, did they see the Niittymaki situation about to collapse, and thought the Thrashers couldn’t possibly say no to the vanRiemsdyk deal? Shrugs. I don’t know. I totally misread that Philly situation. I figured Biron would walk in free agency and Niittymaki was patiently waiting in the wings, as the heir apparent #1. How wrong I was. If I had Tony C.’s Philly-Connection, I would have known better.

Regarding Heatley, I can’t argue with you, Ben. Other people will. John Manasso would!!! Heatley’s recent actions in Ottawa, and his lockout year release requests, as pointed out by Darren Eliot, paint Heatley in a new light. Or, an old one, for those with their finger on the pulse of the Heatley heartbeat.

This organization has had its fair share of setbacks. That’s for certain. But a few, more than few, have been “Self-inflicted” wounds. For which … there has only been Head Coaching position accountability. Ben, you mentioned Savard and signing him when his contractual value was low. Waddell’s policy of “not negotiating contracts during the year” may have cost the team that player. Of course, he could have made Savard a proactive contract in July 2005. Bygones.

If Waddell got promoted, with the job of “budget oversight” of the Hawks and Thrashers, I’d hope he’d lean favorably towards the Thrashers. And if it’s Don’s would-be job … to go BEGGING FOR MONEY, I’d hope Dudley–the presumed next GM–would get the results that please ownership. In that role, perhaps Don Waddell would actually excel?

Sage, all I can say is … and more than likely, accounting principles will back this up, “This team always got what it paid for,” except for 2006 and 2007. In other words, when you pay for a bottom third of the conference team, or a lottery draft team, you’re apt to get just that. In 2006, it spent to Maximum Cap limit, but did not achieve CF, or CSF. Or the playoffs (because of Lehtonen’s injury, along with Dunham’s, and Shields’ and Garnett’s, etc.). In 2007, it got to maximum cap, by season’s end, gambling WILDLY on radical trade deadline moves. It reached the playoffs, but did not achieve what maximum cap spending is expect to do. Would you agree with that, Sage?


July 12th, 2009
8:53 pm

i always thought the nhl screwed itself by not allowing teams to broadcast nationally. tbs helped to build the braves fan base for years. maybe that would help le thrash.