By now you've hopefully had a chance to read the first and second previews of the players competing in Thrashers rookie camp. Today we take a look at the final four forwards: Danick Paquette, Fredrik Pettersson, Ivan Telegin, and Ian MacKenzie.
Paquette is a tough guy. He plays a very gritty, borderline-dirty game. He's got a big body: 6'0", 210lbs. Lately, he's shown a bit of a knack for scoring. His goal totals in juniors have been ticking up: 4, 29, 25, and then 36. His penalty minutes, on the other hand, have finally started to drop: 112, 213, 230, 136.
Paquette never seemed like the kind of guy who could make the Thrashers: he wasn't scoring enough to win a scoring line role in the NHL, but he wasn't fast (or disciplined) enough for a checking-line role. He's been putting in some serious work in the off-season, however, and I came away thoroughly impressed with him during prospect camp. Paquette started to show offensive flashes that I hadn't seen in years prior and he certainly looked a lot faster.
This isn't to say that he's suddenly got a Fast Pass into the NHL: I've got him 17th on my prospect rankings. At the same time, he should earn some ice time in Chicago next year. If he impresses there, expect him to be another one of the names you hear every year as "having a shot" with the Thrashers. He's got the body, skills, and playing style to fit in on this team, it's just a matter of him putting it all together, working on his skating some more, and keeping his PIMs down.
Pettersson was a free agent signing, but he was initially drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. Except for two years with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, he's played in the Swedish leagues, most recently with the Frolunda Indians of the Elitserien, the top league in Sweden. Pettersson led Frolunda in goals last season with 20 in 54 games (the Elitserien is a much lower-scoring league than the NHL) after scoring just 8 the previous year. For comparison's sake, Thrashers prospects Carl Klingberg and Niclas Lasu also played for the Indians and notched 6 goals and 2 goals (in 42 and 51 games,) respectively.
The man fans call "Fly" does more than score: the winger plays a gritty game despite his small-ish 5'10" 179lb frame. After the signing, he seemed like the perfect candidate to play 3rd-line LW, but the recent signing of another Fredrik - Modin - has made it a bit harder for Fly to crack the lineup. I expect we'll see Pettersson in the main camp and several pre-season games. He's a guy we should all watch, though I imagine he'll make known his presence on the ice.
Telegin was a 4th round draft pick for the Thrashers this year, but many thought he would go in the 2nd round, perhaps even late in the 1st. He's a big (6'3", 185-200lb depending on the source) Russian center who likes to park in front of the net. He's played just one year in North America with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. He picked up 26 goals (tied for 2nd on the Spirit) in 51 games. Telegin has a hard shot and likes to hit. While he's typically a center, he can also play on the wing. He's got "Rick Dudley" written all over him.
I was very impressed with Telegin at prospect camp: I noted at the time that he had the best shot of all the prospects. He's also got a huge frame which should fill out more over the next few years. He projects to be a solid 3rd line center, but if his offensive game develops a bit more, there's a possibility he could eek his way into the top-6.
Telegin will very likely spend the next two years in the OHL, but I wouldn't be shocked if he plays at least one pre-season game for the Thrashers. I hope it'll be a home game, I'd love to see him in action here in Atlanta. He's not flashy like fellow Russian Alex Burmistrov, but he could turn out to be the best value-for-the-selection pick we made at this year's draft.
[Ed. note: big thanks to hildymac for contributing this blurb on MacKenzie. I was running out of time today...]
Ian McKenzie was recently acquired by the Thrashers for defenseman Grant Lewis in a trade with the Nashville Predators. McKenzie only played in 24 AHL games for the Admirals, spending most of his time in the ECHL for Nashville's affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones. At age 23, he is still relatively young though by standards of being a forward, he could be starting to become long in the tooth. Twenty three year olds who are doing tours of duty with the ECHL are usually seen as career minor-leaguers, though, and five goals in 50 games with the Admirals screams fourth liner. He also only netted twenty points in sixty four ECHL games, though fifteen of those were goals. It's a bit unusual to see a player skewed so much to the goal-scoring side of things, even in so few games played in the ECHL, and the dip in production when going from league to league signals that as the going gets tougher, his production gets going out the door.
McKenzie was undrafted and signed by the Predators as a free agent on May 6th, 2008. The trade between the Thrashers and Preds addresses the needs of both squads AHL teams and is a depth move. His chances of making the line-up out of camp are slim to none, unless Boults, Slater, Thorburn, Eager, and a few other people get lost at sea. Consider him the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development of the youth. There's that slim possibility of making it to the top, but it's really only there to make him feel good.
Hockey's Future's assessment is brilliant: "Checker. McKenzie is neither agile nor possesses great hockey sense."