Patrice Cormier’s training camp is over before it started.
The highly-regarded Thrashers prospect will be out indefinitely after suffering a broken right foot during rookie camp. According to the team, surgery will not be required.
Cormier, obtained as part of the February trade with New Jersey for Ilya Kovalchuk, blocked a shot Thursday during the final four-on-four scrimmage at the camp for prospects. He fell to the ice after being hit, but got up on his own and told a teammate he was fine.
Cormier was placed on the team’s full training camp roster only to leave the team’s practice facility on crutches. X-rays of Cormier’s foot were taken Thursday and the final diagnosis was made following team physicals Friday on the eve of camp.
“Excited,” was how Cormier described himself to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a day before the injury. “That’s what we work for during the summer and that’s what we work for all season, to come to camp and have a great camp. That’s my main goal. We’ll see what happens when the main camp starts.”
Cormier, with mostly junior hockey experience, had a real chance to make the Thrashers roster, according to general manager Rick Dudley.
“He’s one of the most mature kids I’ve seen at his age – physically and mentally,” Dudley said. “He approaches it right. [Tuesday], he got nasty in the first four-on-four scrimmage that meant anything. That was kind of nice to see. He comes to play and he’s got ability and intelligence to go along with it. There is nothing missing there. With Cormier, it’s just a matter of when. Whether he’s ready now or whether he’s ready a month from now. He’ll be ready. I would anticipate it will be this year.”
The 20-year-old Cormier has been highly regarded since being drafted in the second round (No. 54 overall) by New Jersey in 2008. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder played for gold-medalist Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships and captained the 2010 silver-medalist team.
Cormier played three seasons for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he had 52 goals and 61 assists. Twenty-eight games into last season, he was traded to Rouyn-Noranda. In his third game with the Huskies, Cormier delivered an elbow to Quebec defenseman Mikael Tam’s head, causing brain trauma. He was subsequently suspended for the season and playoffs.
Cormier has a court date on Monday in an assault case filed because of the hit.
It was during his suspension that the Thrashers acquired Cormier. Once Rouyn-Noranda’s season was over, Cormier was eligible to play nine playoff games for the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate in Chicago, finishing the postseason without a point.
“I think I’m strong enough,” Cormier said of his chances to make the NHL. “I can’t say 100 percent I can play in the NHL. I haven’t played in the NHL, so I don’t know. We’ll see. Hopefully I get into a couple of exhibition games. A lot of guys are going to get chances to play exhibition games. Rookie camp is hard work, but once you get with the big guys that’s when you see the guys that are ready and the guys that are not ready. From that moment on, I’ll be able to tell you.”
Evander Kane (15 games), Mark Popovic (22 games) and Kovalchuk (six games) all missed time last season after breaking a foot.
“I went through this myself last year and missed the playoff stretch,” Kane said. “I’m disappointed for him because he had such a positive chance to make the team. For a teammate, because I’ve known him for a few years, it difficult to take. It’s part of hockey. It says a lot about his character that he was trying to block a shot during rookie camp.”
The Thrashers announced several other injuries at the start of training camp. Forward Jim Slater is day-to-day with a sore right wrist. Forward Andrew Kozek is sidelined with a sports hernia and will have surgery at a later date. Forward Ian McKenzie is day-to-day with a groin strain.