Of all the prospects the Thrashers have at their disposal, the one that I’ve felt had the best chance of cracking this fall’s roster was Patrice Cormier. The 20-year old forward came over to Atlanta last February along with Nic Bergfors and Johnny Oduya when Anssi Salmela and, and…snapping fingers… oh, who was that other guy we sent packing?
Oh yeah…Ilya Kovalchuk.
Cormier came to Thrasherville with some baggage in tow as he was currently serving a season-ending suspension. It came as a result of a vicious hit on Michael Tam during a QHJML game last January. Cormier is answering criminal charges for that incident. But even with that hanging over his head, Rick Dudley…then associate GM…still though highly enough of his on-ice talent to bring him on board.
Cormier impressed during prospect camp and last week put in solid performer at rookie camp. To many, his jump to the NHL rested simply on continuing his fine work during training camp. Unfortunately, that came to a grinding halt last Thursday when he suffered a broken foot during a 4 on 4 scrimmage, blocking a shot even though his team trailed 4-1 in the closing moments.
Bad break for Cormier? Yes, yes it is. But where one suffers a setback, another realizes an opportunity. This is the cold, hard realities of professional sports.
This brings us to another bright prospect in the Thrashers pipeline… Alexander Burmistrov. The Russian forward was selected by the Thrashers with their eighth-overall draft pick last June. Since then, I’ve spent the summer believing that this kid was destined for one more season with the Barrie Colts…even if for no other reason than that there simply would be no room at the Thrasherville Inn for him given the talent in house.
But that all changed Thursday.
Since Cormier isn’t going to be available on October 8, I don’t think it’s inconceivable that we could see the four starting centers suiting up as Antropov, Peverley, Burmistrov and Slater. Antropov and Peverley, in my opinion, are all but shoe-ins as your first and second line pivots. And although I think the team would like to give Slater more than fourth line minutes, he’s handled the centerman’s job there before and could do so again given the circumstances. This leaves the third line open for some competition.
Cormier’s injury aside, I’ve opined that I wanted to see how Burmie handled himself alongside NHL talent. Saturday was the first time we got to see that and to be honest I thought he did quite well. I’m sure he found out that he’s going to find less space to operate in and his reaction time has to be picked up at this level, but my initial review is nothing but positive.
Angelo Esposito is another one who could benefit from having one less prospect to compete with. I’ve watch him skate this summer and to be honest, he shows zero signs that he’s anything but recovered from his recent ACL tear. He’s quick on his skates and shows no visible signs that he’s nervous about cutting sharp.
The only real test remaining for Espo is how will it holds up during actual game conditions, and there is only one way to do that… play in games. The question I have is, outside of preseason matches, would the team want to have that test done at the NHL level or AHL? I would guess the latter.
Regardless, I’m pleased to see he’s progressed as well as he has.
Additional Observations From Training Camp
One player that really stood out to me as training camp got underway Saturday is Nigel Dawes, the 5’-8”, 195 lb forward who was signed recently to a two-way contract. Folks, don’t let his diminutive statue fool you. He’s like a fireplug on skates out there, using that low center of gravity to his advantage. And he isn’t afraid to go after the puck…and the opposition…in the corners.
Quick, crafty, and a “pest” for opposing defenseman. Those are words that come to mind watching Dawes.
Also, liked how Rich Peverley and Andrew Ladd worked together on the same line. If I hadn’t known any better I would swear these two have been linemates for some time now. The two hooked up on a goal that I hope we’ll see many times this season as the Pevs Dispenser dished a nifty pass over to Ladd who then beat Chris Mason.
Likewise, I was impressed with the pairing of Ron Hainsey and Dustin Byfuglien on defense. Buff looked at home on the blueline and the two seemed very comfortable with one another.
I’m wondering if this is simply a camp experiment or if there is more to it. I say that because coach Ramsay said a few weeks ago in a conversation with myself and Matt McConnell that he would like to get his guys together as quickly as possible. This, Ramsay explained, would allow them some time to gel during preseason. But given the amount of talent in camp he didn’t know if he could do so and still give some of the prospects a fair chance to prove themselves.
However, at the time he was responding to a question regarding the overall squad. Hainsey and Buff are two that have no question as to whether they’ll make the roster, so maybe Ramsay has some intention to keep them together.
And lastly, there’s Freddy Modin. Simply put, he looks ready for season already. All I could think to myself while watching him play was, “He’s gonna be 36-years of age on opening night…really”?
Liking that pickup even more right now.
Ring Around The Blogosphere
It’s been a while since we last took a trip around the hockey blogosphere, but here are a couple of entries that have caught my attention.
Razor Catch Prey of the The Blueland Chronicle takes a look back of the Kovalchuk contract controversy.
The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau has released his Eastern Conference predictions. So how does he feel about the Thrashers? Well, he likes the new GM and coach, but as for results, he’ll believe it when he sees it.
Our own Smoothie opines in his latest As The Birds Thrash blogthat Freddie “The Fly” Pettersson is not a “prospect” anymore. He firmly believes that he’s a ready for prime time player.
Daculafan takes issuewith those who question Akim Aliu’s character in his latest entry over at FanThrashtic.
And finally, we discussed Patrice Cormier and his outstanding legal situation resulting from the hit on an opponent. But Carl Danbury, known in these parts as “Red Light”, wants us to know there’s another side to the New Brunswick native.