Thursday, January 22, 2009


The all-star break is a good time to reflect. If you're a Thrashers fan, maybe the reflection is tough to look at considering the team's body of work from the first half of the season. But if you look close enough, you might start to see a blue line that's coming together thanks to a couple of kids from New York and Slovakia.

Zach Bogosian's development has been meteoric. His smooth skating and ability to rush the puck and engage in the offense has been fun to watch. It's happening before our eyes.

It's happening quickly.

The Massena, New York native is plus-6 in his last five games. He was a plus-4 in last weekend's Atlanta blowout of the Predators in Nashville where he set a personal career high in ice time with 21:26. He was a plus-1 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

But maybe the best portion of his development has been his poise. Against the Flyers, he led rushes, propelling the offense. Is it me or does he look like a young Matthieu Schneider? His defensive position has been excellent and much improved from earlier this season when he looked hesitant in front of his goaltenders. It's as if he's flipped a switch from the time he reported back to Atlanta from his stint with the Chicago Wolves.

Boris Valabik looks more like an imposing shut down defenseman than he ever has in his brief career. On Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Slovakian used his stick and reach to perfection and single handedly broke up a Flyers scoring chance late in the game. Had that been in a game a month or two ago, Valabik's stick would have cut the skates out from underneath the Philadelphia player resulting in a penalty. He's starting to understand the timing at the NHL level and is thinking the game better by the day.

Valabik's development in many ways has mirrored Bogosian's, which makes it all that more encouraging for the Thrashers blueline when the team returns from all-star break.

So what does it all mean?

How about options.

While the organization is not necessarily deep in NHL ready defenseman, they do have some wiggle room when it comes to roster moves.

One would think with the development of some of the younger defensemen, a veteran such as Schneider would be attractive to teams seeking an offensive-minded defenseman for the stretch run and playoffs. One of those teams could be Ottawa, who might be willing to part with a young forward. But the Senators will be sellers instead of buyers if they don't right their ship in the next couple of weeks.

Should Schneider be moved, it would create an everyday roster spot for Nathan Oystrick, who in my opinion played well for most of the first half of the season. Additional depth on defense in terms of call-ups could be Brett Skinner, Arturs Kulda and Grant Lewis.

Hey, options are never a bad thing. And right now, Bogosian and Valabik are providing just that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Last week, I had the opportunity to watch the Atlanta Thrashers 2008 first round pick Daultan Leveille in a weekend series against the Miami Redhawks. It was the first time I've had the opportunity to watch him "live".

My overall assessment of the kid is that he's a legitimate prospect for the team. There is no doubt about his offensive skill. As his head coach Rick Comley told me, the package is there. What he needs to work on is his defensive zone play (especially down low along the goal line) and getting bigger physically. Trust me when I tell you that Comley is as good of a teacher as there is at the NCAA level, so I'm sure his defensive understanding of the game will grow greatly.

I also believe he'll get bigger and bigger physically since he's likely to be a four year player. I would be shocked if he leaves early. And playing college hockey as opposed to major junior should aide in his strength development since NCAA players spent much more time in the weight room, due mainly to the schedule of games (30-35 a season as opposed to 70-80 in junior).

Anyways, below is the link to the story that I had the Thrashers people post to the team's website. As always, questions are welcome. Thanks.