Lots of size and grit in European and NCAA prospects for Atlanta Thrashers

By Kyle West
Photo: Carl Klingberg recently joined the Thrashers organization, playing for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. He is likely to compete for an NHL spot with the Thrashers in the 2011-12 season. (Photo courtesy of www.eliteprospects.com)

The Thrashers have three strong prospects in Sweden, although their top prospect Carl Klingberg recently announced his intention to report to the Chicago Wolves. In the NCAA, three of the Thrashers college prospects have been sidelined with serious injury while Vinny Saponari has taken a sabbatical in the USHL.


Europe

Carl Klingberg, RW, 20
Acquired: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2009


Recently signed to a pro contract, Klingberg will be given the chance to prove his game fits well with the smaller North American ice surface. A big winger who plays a crash and bang style, the 6’3 Klingberg impressed greatly at the WJC for Sweden playing in rinks with NHL dimensions. He is an imposing figure who seems to genuinely relish the physical battles along the boards and in front of the net. Klingberg adds a physical element to the Chicago Wolves this year and likely the Thrashers next season. As he demonstrated at the WJC, he has a hard and accurate shot with a quick release and should score more than the three goals in 38 games he posted with Vastra Frolunds and Timra IK in the SEL this year. A trade to Timra later in the year gave him more playing time and saw him score 3 goals in 11 games, hopefully a better indication of his offensive upside.

Nicklas Lasu, LW, 21
Acquired: 5th round, 124th overall, 2008

A consistent performer who gives his all for his team, Lasu comes from a hockey family and was coached for most of his career by his father Tyrone, who also had a long playing career in Sweden. Lasu plays a physical game and loves to make the big hit whenever possible, although he is not overly large at 6’0 and 185 lbs. A potentially an ideal checking line winger for the Thrashers, Lasu has resisted coming over to North America. Perhaps the arrival of his countryman Klingberg, with whom he could form a devastating checking line, might convince him to make the move this summer.


Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel, G, 19
Acquired: 5th round, 128th overall, 2010

The best goaltender in the Allsvenskan last year, the explosively quick and technically sound Petterson-Wentzel spent 16 games on loan to Timra in the Eliteserien this year and posted a 2.71 goals against average. Appearing in three games at the WJC, Petterson-Wentzel was stellar in the early stages of the bronze medal game against the USA and arguably outplayed starter Robin Lehner (OTT) throughout the tournament. In three starts, he posted a 2.69 goals against average and .895 save percentage. Under contract in Sweden for at least another year, Petterson-Wentzel need not rush over to North America as the Thrashers have a deep pool of talent at the goalkeeper position. However his development path could soon take him to a point where he is the best goalkeeper in the pipeline.

NCAA

John Albert, C, 22
Acquired: 6th round, 175th overall, 2007

A hometown fan-favorite for Ohio State, Albert has been one of the most identifiable members of the Buckeyes, known for his long mullet as much for his flat-out style of play. Albert plays in all situations and is a vocal leader on the team and a popular teammate. Playing for a contract, Albert should have started negotiations to turn pro as the Buckeyes went out in the first round of the CCHA playoffs to Lake Superior State.

Yasin Cisse, RW, 19
Acquired: 5th round, 150th overall, 2010

Having played just 18 games for Des Moines in the USHL last year, the big winger from Montreal played all of one game for the Boston University Terriers this year, and didn’t even finish the match. Still recovering from a broken ankle, Cisse has yet to show the blend of power and speed that made him a top target of college recruiters.

Alex Kangas, G, 23
Acquired: 5th round, 135th overall, 2006

Sidelined by a hip injury, Kangas has declined to be red-shirted and will leave the Univeristy of Minnesota after the season is over. A rookie star for the Golden Gophers in 2008, Kangas was sensational in backstopping his team to the WCHA title. His stats have declined since, as has Gophers hockey, but Kangas remains a top prospect for his composure, mental strength and impeccable technical skills.

Daultan Leveille, C, 20
Acquired: 1st round, 29th overall, 2008

The slippery Spartan center continues to produce consistent numbers while playing in all situations. A draft day reach by the Thrashers, the playmaker has still to add needed weight and strength to his 5’11 frame, weighing in at 160 lbs. With only one more year of college elgibility, Leveille will need to prove his elusive skating and superior awareness will allow him to succeed at the next level despite his lightweight frame.

Will O’Neill, D, 22
Acquired: 7th round, 210th overall, 2006

Having played two years in the USHL after being drafted, O’Neill has just finished up his junior year at the University of Maine. A stalwart on the Black Bears defense corps, O’Neill has a strong frame and can play a hard-hitting style while leading the offense from the blueline. Slowed down by injury this year, O’Neill was still the top scoring defenseman on the team with 21 points in 28 games. A solid all-rounder, O’Neill will look to turn pro after his senior year.

Jesse Martin, C, 22
Acquired: 7th round, 195th overall, 2006

The University of Denver senior can count himself lucky to be alive after having his neck broken on the ice when hit from behind into the boards. Having undergone emergency surgery and been immobilized in a halo and brace for six months, Martin has revealed that his doctors believe a small bone shard wedged between his two fractured vertebrae and prevented the spinal cord from being damaged. Now able to walk unaided and beginning to attend classes again, Martin may even set foot on the ice again soon with the doctor’s clearance. What was once thought to be a tragic story has turned to a tale of hope for a very lucky Thrashers prospect.

Zach Redmond, D, 22
Acquired: 7th round, 184th overall, 2008

One of the more impressive prospects in this year’s rookie camp, Redmond was reportedly offered a chance to turn pro with the Thrashers but declined to play one more year at Ferris State. The Bulldogs captain is now finished with his college career as the ‘Dogs were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by Western Michigan. A solidly built defender at 6’2 and 200 lbs, Redmond has improved his skating beyond all recognition and leads the offense with his crisp passing and heavy shot.


Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, 20
Acquired: 7th round, 203th overall,  2009

The powerful winger known as JST has become the figurehead for Bowling Green University as a sophomore. Once a regular contender in the CCHA, the program had fallen on hard times and only recently have they begun to recover some success. Having advanced to the second round of the CCHA playoffs, the Falcons bowed out to the University of Michigan this year. A modest indicator of success for the Bowling Green program, the totals for Samuels-Thomas on the season placed him in the scoring lead for the Falcons with nine goals and 21 points in 36 games. The 6’2 winger plays an aggressive game using his speed and power to good effect and is one of the more exciting prospects to come through the ranks for the Thrashers.