Okay, okay, we get it: you want more posts from us. August and early September just seem to drag and drag for hockey fans... and hockey bloggers. There's not a whole lot that we can say yet: we don't have rosters for rookie camp or training camp, but let's see if we can put together an assessment of who has a realistic shot at competing for a spot with the Thrashers.
Below I'll break the groups into forwards and defense, and for each category we'll look at returning roster players, newly acquired roster players, prospects, and 'tweeners (the guys that typically bounce between the NHL and AHL.) I'll probably miss a few names on this list, so feel free to leave corrections in the comments.
One other note: I won't bother with goalies, as (hopefully) we can all agree that Pavelec and Mason will be our starters and the rest of the guys will be slotted into spots with the Chicago Wolves, Gwinnett Gladiators, or their college/junior teams, if applicable.
Let's start after the jump.
- Returning (8): Antropov, Bergfors*, Boulton, Kane, Little, Peverley, Slater, Thorburn
- Acquired (4): Byfuglien**, Eager, Ladd, Pettersson
- Prospects (3): Burmistrov, Cormier, Machacek
- Tweeners (2): Rissmiller, Siklenka
* Niclas Bergfors is not yet under contract, though as an RFA, his options are limited. He'll likely either sign a contract or be traded.
** Rick Dudley has repeatedly suggested that Dustin Byfuglien might play on the blueline this season. I believe that Buff may dislike playing forward - or at least playing punching bag - and has specified a preference and the desire to play defense.
First of all, if you're curious why certain prospects have been left off the list (Klingberg perhaps being the most noticeable), the three listed above are all considered "NHL ready." Cormier and Machacek both have NHL-ready bodies, and while Burmistrov is small, he has the talent to succeed. Most of the remaining prospects could use time to develop their bodies and/or their game.
It wouldn't surprise me to see the lines shaken up a bit from last year. If Burmistrov makes the squad, it'll likely be as a 3rd line center between Andrew Ladd and Fredrik Pettersson. I really hope we get to see these three together in pre-season: Burmistrov is fast and shifty, Ladd attacks the net hard, and Pettersson is a strong skater and a frequent hitter. The Burmistrov -> Ladd connection could produce a pretty serious number of goals.
Assuming that's our third line, the top two would likely be Little - Antropov - Bergfors and Kane - Peverley - Byfuglien. If Byfuglien makes the switch to defense, I'd expect either a) Andrew Ladd steps up into the second line or b) Burmistrov steps up to 2nd line center and Rich Peverley moves to right wing. In fact, I'd bet that will be the best indicator of whether Burmistrov will make the team or not: does Dustin Byfuglien switch to defense? They likely won't make that switch unless they're confident Burmistrov can handle 2nd-line center duties.
- Returning (5): Bogosian, Enstrom, Hainsey, Oduya, Valabik
- Acquired (1): Sopel
- Prospects (1): Kulda, Zubarev
- Tweeners (1): Meyer
Like before, there are some notable names missing from this list, primarily Paul Postma. Sadly, there's just no room for Postma on our squad this year. In fact, if you consider Byfuglien's potential move to the blueline, the Thrashers may not have room for a single rookie defensemen, even as a routine healthy scratch.
The question becomes: who is the 7th man? It's going to be Valabik or Kulda, most likely. There's an outside chance that Zubarev earn that spot, but that's a long shot. It gets easier if Valabik isn't ready to go, but his rehab has been going very well. All signs point to Valabik being ready to play a full season, and if he plays like he did before his season-ending injury last year, I expect him to stick with the team and play most nights.
On paper, this looks like a very solid defense. If you consider the coaching staff, it looks even better. Craig Ramsay has very solid credentials when it comes to preventing goals. I would expect our goals-against to be dramatically lower this year.
So what do you think? Did I leave anybody off the list who should have made it? Did I under- or over-estimate anybody? Discuss below.