During the course of the summer we’ve occasionally paused to examine just where the Atlanta Thrashers roster stood. Since we last performed such a review, we have learned of three players that will definitely not return to the lineup. Clarke MacArthur and his $2.4 million arbitration award was given a one-way ticket out of Thrasherville . Maxim Afinogenov left for the KHL, taking his 24 goals & 61 points with him. And Todd White was traded and he took his…well…he took his milk carton to Broadway.
So with that, let’s once again see where the Thrashers are in regards to on-ice personnel. But this time, we’ll concentrate on which prospects might have the best chance to make the NHL squad this fall.
Barring any other transactions, Hainsey, Enstrom, Oduya, Bogosian, Sopel and Valabikshould man the defensive corps. But that leaves one more to provide a healthy scratch in the press box. Conventional wisdom would point to Arturs Kulda to fit the bill, though some will be quick to add Paul Postma has a decent shot to make the team too. But given what Kulda showed in his few games up last winter and his play with the Wolves, Paul would really need to have a spectacular training camp/preseason to move past Arturs onthe depth chart.
In fact, I would even go so far to say that even if Rick Dudley were to pull off another deal to acquire another blueliner, Kulda probably wouldn’t be the odd man out, it might just be Boris Valabik who could be placed upon the trading blocks.
Up front… well, that’s where we could really see a battle for a couple open slots. Currently under contract are nine forwards who already have spots on the team…Antropov, Byfuglien, Kane, Ladd, Peverley, Slater, Boulton, Eager and Thorburn. Add in RFAs Little and Bergfors, whose contracts are still yet to be announced, and you have eleven of the twelve needed to ice four lines.
That would leave one more forward to dress and one or two more for healthy scratches.
Who do you think has the best shot at cracking the Thrashers lineup? (Pick three)
Total Voters: 246
Among the prospects who should have a legitimate shot at securing those spots are Patrice Cormier, Spencer Machacek, Carl Klingberg, Anthony Stewart, Fredrik Pettersson, Angelo Esposito and last June’s first round draft pick Alexander Burmistrov. Patrick Rissmiller, who was acquired in return for the milk carton, isn’t classified as a “prospect”, but we’ll lump him in as one who will be competing for a job on the NHL squad.
Of the candidates listed above, I would think Cormier enters into camp with the label of “His Job To Lose” affixed to his jersey. If he does make the team, I’d slide him between Eager and Bolts on the fourth line. Then the battle becomes which two forwards get to round out the roster.
Players like Machacek, Klingberg, and Pettersson would be considered chic picks here…certainly the look to factor into the Thrashers’ future. But unless they impress Dudley, Ramsay and Torchetti enough to displace one of the perceived starters on the team, I’d prefer to see them getting ice time with the Wolves…or Barrie in the case of Burmistrov… than observation time from the press box.
Rissmiller, on the other hand, is a good candidate for the role of 13th forward. He’s played in 182 NHL regular season games as well as 30 playoff games while with the Sharks. Plus, seeing that he’ll become 32 in October, it’s not like he requires much more “seasoning” on the farm. Anthony Stewart is a decent possibility here too given he has 105 NHL games under his belt.
And as for Esposito, well, let’s see how far his twice-torn ACL rehab has progress when training camp rolls around. I honestly have my doubts here…but Espo has youth and modern sports medicine on his side.
Either way, that’s seven or so players that would be vying for two open spots…three if the team opts to keep 14 forwards. Combine that with Arturs Kulda who should be on the back line, and we could see a healthy dose of youth in the Thrashers lineup this October.