Valabik departure could mean another ‘Face of the Future’ becoming part of the past

When I saw the news today that the Thrashers had placed defenseman Boris Valabik on re-entry waivers, my first thought was that the 6’-7” Slovak was heading back to Atlanta…possibly because Freddy Meyer’s mid-body injury was going to keep him out for a longer period of time. But it seems as though Valabik’s placement on waivers has nothing to do with his return but instead looks as if the move was made to give him a chance to be picked up by another team.

Boris Valabik, seen here slugging it out with Shean Donovan last January, may be the latest first round draft pick to depart Thrasherville (AP Photo/John Amis)

Boris Valabik, seen here slugging it out with Shean Donovan last January, may be the latest first round draft pick to depart Thrasherville (AP Photo/John Amis)

I guess Rick Dudley tried but could find no takers in a trade and is simply clearing the field a bit for other defensive prospects such as Arturs Kulda, Paul Postma, Andrei Zubarev, etc.

Valabik, drafted in the first round in 2004, would leave after playing in a grand total of 80 games at the NHL level… scoring no goals, 7 assists, collecting 210 PIM to go with a –14 rating. That’s a disappointing return for a 10th overall draft pick.

But that’s not unusual in these parts, as I’m sure you’re all aware of…painfully so.

So, at the risk of subjecting myself to having you toss cyber-bricks in my direction, allow me to take the opportunity of yet another first round pick departing Thrasherville to review the list of others that have done so.

1999- Patrik Stefan: The first ever “Face of the Future” in Thrasherville, Stefan was selected over both the Sedin twins. He scored a total of 59 goals, 118 assists and was a –41 in 414 games while with the Thrashers before being shipped off to Dallas in 2006 along with Jaroslav Modry. In return, Atlanta received Niko Kapanen and a seventh round selection in 2007. Then-GM Don Waddell then used that pick to draft Will O’Neill.

sigh… Yeah, I know. I know.

2000- Dany Heatley: I really don’t want to go down this road again and rehash in great detail the circumstances that led to this number two overall pick’s departure from Atlanta. The long and short here is that he asked for a “Get Out of Atlanta Free” card shortly before the 2005-06 season. He claimed the desire to move on with his life after a terrible accident took the life of his friend and teammate. Heatley was dealt to Ottawa where he signed a long-term deal with a no trade clause.

Then in the summer of 2009…he demanded to be traded.

What Atlanta got in return from the Senators was forward Marian Hossa and defenseman Greg DeVries…the big name there being Hossa. At the 2008 trade deadline, Hossa bolted for the door after not being convinced this organization was on the right path with Don Waddell at the helm.

In return for Hossa…and Pascal Dupuis…the Thrashers got two NHL players, a prospect and a draft pick from the Penguins. One of those players, Erik Christensen, was traded for a prospect. The other, Colby Armstrong, left Atlanta as a free agent last summer. The prospect obtained from Pittsburgh, Angelo Esposito, is now playing with the AHL Chicago Wolves after having healed from his second ACL injury in as many years. The player selected with the Penguins pick, Daultan Laveille, is currently playing at Michigan State University.

DeVries departed in the summer of 2007 when he signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators.

2001- Ilya Kovalchuk: Coupled with Heatley, this first-overall pick made up Atlanta’s dynamic-duo whom the franchise would build the foundation of success. Kovy was the new “Face of the Future” from the day he was draft…right up to the day he was traded, that is.

The much-drawn-out Kovy drama that engulfed Thrasherville for the better part of a year ended last winter when he, along with defenseman Anssi Salmela, were traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Nic Bergfors, Johnny Oduya and prospect Patrice Cormier. There was some draft picks exchanged as well, which were used in the big trade with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer.

For Salmela, it was a return back to a Devils organization that had traded him to the Thrashers a year prior in exchange for veteran defenseman Niclas Havelid.

New Jersey then owned the rights to try and re-sign Kovalchuk before the July 1 free agency period…something they eventually got around to doing in September after considerable tossing and tumbling with the NHL and the CBA

Kari Lehton was the second overall pick for the Thrashers in 2002. He's now a Star in Dallas with a record of 5-4-0, with a .908 SV% and 2.93 GAA (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kari Lehton was the second overall pick for the Thrashers in 2002. He's now a Star in Dallas with a record of 5-4-0, with a .908 SV% and 2.93 GAA (AP Photo/LM Otero)

2002 – Kari Lehtonen: The Thrashers “goalie of the future” was selected with the second draft pick…right before some dude named Jay Bouwmeester. However, Kari would have issues with a tender groin and back…and conditioning in general. After being pushed into the starting role when Pasi Nurminem suffered a career-ending injury, Lehtonen debuted as the number one goalie on opening night 2005 in south Florida. He lasted one period before Kari-Down ’05 began.

A relatively successful 2006-07 season helped the Thrashers to a playoff birth, but Kari-Down ’07 and Kari-Down ’08 began early in those seasons and limited his ability to suit up for lengthy periods of time. Last year, Kari-Down ’09 began in the summer following back surgery, something he would not fully recover from until shortly before his trade to Dallas in February 2010.

In return for the goalie, Atlanta got defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and the 4th pick in last summer’s draft. Vishnevskiy was then traded away to the Blackhawks, along with a number-two selection in 2011, for forward Andrew Ladd.

Oh yeah, Jimmy Slater was a first-round pick in ’02, but he was Don Waddell’s choice with the 30th overall.

2003- Braydon Coburn: The 8th overall pick in ’03 was defenseman Braydon Coburn. In February 2007, he was sent packing to Philadelphia when Waddell hit the panic button during the playoff stretch of that season. Heading over to the Thrashers…ducking for cyber-bricks…Alexei Zhitnik.

Now, the Thrashers did make the playoffs…and Zhitnik did actually help his new team do so. But the next fall he then became the poster-child for trades gone bad as his play dropped off significantly. He was relegated to the press box for much of the last few weeks of the season.

Then in the summer of ’08… just after Don Waddell said Zhitnik would “play a big part in the Thrashers’ future”… Zhitnik was waived, his contract bought out, and he was then paid $1.16 million for the next two years to not play for the Thrashers.

Coburn, on the other hand, has become very acquainted with postseason play. Last spring he and his Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks…and Marian Hossa.

That would then bring us back to…

2004- Boris Valabik: Was Boris was ever labeled as the “defensive face of the future”?…shrugs…I dunno. But given he was the first defender taken by the Thrashers so high in the draft…and to date, only one of two who hold that distinction…it’s not a stretch to have looked upon his selection that way. However it seems now that six after slipping on a Thrashers jersey on the stage in Raleigh, North Carolina, Boris may indeed be leaving on that same train out of Thrasherville that Stefan, Heatley, Kovalchuk and Coburn did.

As for 2005…do we even need to re-hash the now infamous first-round draft debacle that gave us Alex Bourret?

No?

Good.

Alex Burmistrov, defending against Carolina's Zach Boychuk, joins Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane as first round draft picks making an impact on this Thrashers roster (AP Photo/John Amis)

Alex Burmistrov, defending against Carolina's Zach Boychuk, joins Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane as first round draft picks making an impact on this Thrashers roster (AP Photo/John Amis)

But with all of that said, this brings up to the more recent first round picks… the new “Faces of the Future” if you will. They are… Bryan Little, 12th overall in 2006… Zach Bogosian, 3rd overall in 2008, Evander Kane, 4th overall in 2009 and Alexander Burmistrov, 8th overall in 2010.

The Thrashers had no first-rounder in ’07.

Little, Kane and Bogosian have already played in more NHL games than have Valabik and it sure looks like we can say the same thing about Burmistrov by this time next year. These four are not only playing in games, but are contributing to sense of general optimism that prevails around Thrasherville.

That’s what you’re looking for from “earning” the right to obtain these kinds of players so early in the draft.

With Valabik’s perceived departure, these are the guys who will help close the book on the Thrasher “Faces of the Future” – 1999-2005 edition.

119 comments Add your comment

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
10:06 pm

A WIN!!! But what’s up w/ the Florida scorer? He was apparently giving a sog for anything getting near the goal. Now that they mentioned it, I recall that the Fla scorer has done this in past games. That is pretty disgusting but he can pad the shots stat all he wants as long as we win the game.

Thrashy Thrashy

November 3rd, 2010
10:16 pm

This Byfuglien fellow is halfway decent, ain’t he?

I didn’t see a second of the game, but even if the Florida scorer padded the stats, my guess is that we were still outshot two-to-one. That is absolute bulls…great! We won the game!

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
10:21 pm

Oh, absolutely Rammer and the Torch need to get them playing a lot better defense. That’s way too many shots even of a lot were not scoring chances. As we saw tonight, throw enough of them at the goal and some will go in.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
10:24 pm

BTW, we owe the CBJ some payback tomorrow night for beating us twice in preseason (when the score of the games really doesn’t matter.)

litz

November 3rd, 2010
10:25 pm

Something’s gotta be done … Tampa’s gonna take us apart if we let them shoot like that.

R. Stroz

November 3rd, 2010
10:26 pm

Considering the Atlanta Hawks just re-signed Al Horford in conjunction with Big Buff being eligible for a contract re-signing at any point in time, how many of you think the Thrashers management should get off their collective backsides and get Buff re-signed to address the player retention issue?

stendek

November 3rd, 2010
10:35 pm

Very impressive indeed! Was keeping up with Thrashers with bottom screen updates during football game. Tied after first period. Tied after second period. Became uneasy when I saw Thrashers had fallen behind by goal in final period. Overjoyed when I saw final score! Well done fellows. Have not read about victory yet. Just want to commend Thrashers for exceptional rally. Thanks. STENDEK

litz

November 3rd, 2010
10:37 pm

Hehe … just wait’ll Stendek sees the boxscore …

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
10:48 pm

Stroz…raising my hand yes on getting Buff re-signed. He can be the first of several.

Thrashy Thrashy

November 3rd, 2010
10:52 pm

Sori Letemin would have given up 10 goals out of them 55 shots, I do believe.

stendek

November 3rd, 2010
10:57 pm

Stopping 52 of 55 shots? WOW! That is an average of 17.3 stops per period. Just off a stop every minute. Defense anyone? STENDEK

Joe Friday

November 3rd, 2010
11:08 pm

So Mason finally stole us a win, nice. Stroz, they may not be re-signing anyone know if there is an impending sale, they’ve left things pretty loose for a new owner to be able to make their own financial decisions when they come in. But yes, sign him, Ladd, Bergfors to long term deals.

Speaking of Buf, they need to move him to forward, it’s clear he’s not going to be scoring from the blueline.

litz

November 3rd, 2010
11:18 pm

Speaking of the latest “sell the team” rumor … has ANYONE managed to dig up anything other than the two twitter posts?

Alan R.

November 3rd, 2010
11:22 pm

I’ve looked a bit, litz. The answer is no. Hopefully C-Viv can dig something up for us.

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
11:32 pm

Sunrise, FL’s finest is chasing the Thrashers all the way to Miami Int’l Airport, screaming, “Stop, Thief!” But the Thrashers have secreted Chris Mason away, and are denying his whereabouts.

52 saves??? 52 … saves. This is highway robbery. But, what have I been saying? “We’re gonna have to get our wins by playing from behind, since we clearly can’t play with a lead.” Well, I guess we did protect a lead for 9:50. That’s not quite the same thing as a 43:00 lead to a win. But hey, wins are wins. Points are points. It is what it is.

Hey, I notice Bobby Holik on “OTF” again. He doesn’t anything nice about Chris Mason. He doesn’t comment on the Thrashers successes. What gives? He could at least say, “I played in Atlanta, and it’s great to see them having some success.” Nothing, from FrankenBobby.

Here’s your boxscore: http://www.nhl.com/ice/boxscore.htm?id=2010020167. Byfuglien was a +2. “Modin Watch ‘10-11″ continues. Modin is now just 11 goals away from the magical “14.” Byfuglien got his 5th of the year. Has he caught Kane?

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
11:37 pm

Was that Anthony Stewart missing the empty net, at the end of regulation? I think it was. If so, thank goodness the Panthers didn’t come back to score. That’d be the worst feeling, for Stewart, in his homecoming.

Rawhide

November 3rd, 2010
11:55 pm

Great effort by Chris Mason tonight as he helps Thrashers scratch out 4-3 win over the Panthers.

R. Stroz

November 5th, 2010
12:44 am

Rawhide

November 5th, 2010
2:47 pm

R. Stroz – Nope.