Thrashers Training Camp Report

By Holly Gunning

The Thrashers are six days into Training Camp 2002. The crowds have been large and the scrimmages spirited. This update will get you up to speed on what’s been going on so far. Preseason games start 9/20 at home against Tampa Bay.

Comings and Goings

The Thrashers training camp roster started with 54 players. Four of those were players who suited up for the Thrashers at the Traverse City Rookie Tournament and were invited to training camp on a free agent tryouts:
Charles Linglet, left winger out of Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL
Judd Medak, left winger out of U. Minnesota-Duluth
Krzysztof Wieckowski, center out of Cornell University
Greg Black, right winger out of Seattle of the WHL

On 9/16, Charles Linglet, Greg Black and Lane Manson were all returned to their junior teams. The only junior player remaining in camp at this point is Karl Stewart, who has a contract with the Thrashers, but will return to play another year at Plymouth (OHL).

The first major cut happened today (9/19) in preparation for tomorrrow’s preseason game. The Thrashers re-assigned forwards Dave Kaczowka, Andreas Karlsson, Derek MacKenzie, Judd Medak and Krzysztof Wieckowski; defensemen Dallas Eakins, Paul Flache, Luke Sellars and Libor Ustrnul and goaltenders Michael Garnett and Norm Maracle to Chicago (AHL). The team now has 40 players left in camp.

One arrival was notable: Yuri Butsayev had some issues getting to camp. He did not sign a contract until the day before camp started and his arrival in Atlanta from Russia was delayed considerably due to visa problems. He arrived in Atlanta the morning of the 18th and skated the same day.


Training Camp Structure

From 9/14 to 9/19, the structure of camp was a separation of the players into three groups, A, B and C, with one group doing drills per day, and the other two groups scrimmaging. The scrimmages are two 30-minute periods, run time. For the first four days, penalties were compensated for with penalty shots. Later, one minute penalties were used. Three goalies played in each scrimmage.

Line Formation

Below are the lines that have been playing together in the scrimmages. The separation into three teams prohibits a lot of line tinkering, but there is no need to tinker as the lines seem to be working well together.

Kovalchuk-Piros-Kozlov (Hartigan centered for a bit as well)
Bartecko-Stefan-Heatley
Kallio-Hrkac-McEachern
Cowan-Snyder-Vigier (now Lessard instead of Vigier)
Herperger-Svartvadet-Tapper

Hartigan was tried with Kovalchuk and Kozlov, but Piros has worked out better between them. Kovalchuk and Kozlov seem to be enjoying playing together already, they are turning the puck back in the neutral zone like the good Russians that they are. Piros seems game for this more than Hartigan. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Piros will make the team and center the top line, but he’s certainly making a case for himself. This line has had some decent scoring chances despite low point totals.


Defensive Pairings

Tjarnqvist-Krupp
Kaberle-Smehlik
Safronov-DiPenta (later Foster)
Tamer-Tremblay
Sutton-Weaver
Exelby-Eakins

The top four defensemen, Tjarnqvist, Krupp, Kaberle and Smehlik are paired up, but the other pairings are harder to read anything into. The pairing of Safronov, who may make the team, with DiPenta, who almost certainly will not, is curious.


Prospects Making Noise

Blatny and Gamache are scoring in the scrimmages, each has had a hat trick, but their overall play has not been as good. Blatny was moved from Team A to Team B midweek and was put on a line with Gamache. Another interesting change was the movement of Vigier off a line with Cowan and Snyder and the replacement of him with Lessard. Because the talent of what linemates you’re placed with seems to say something about you, Vigier’s demotion and Lessard’s promotion seems to indicate falling and rising stock in the two right wings over the course of camp.


Scrimmage scoring 9/14 – 9/19

The table below shows the scoring in the six days of scrimmages. Most players played four games, a few only three. The table is sorted by goals because the tallies for those are more accurate than the assist tallies, given the lack of replays at the practice facility.

PositionGoalsAssists
BlatnyLW51
KallioRW42
McEachernLW42
StefanC40
GamacheLW30
CowanLW30
SafronovD22
Heatley RW21
FosterD21
BarteckoLW21
PirosC20
KovalchukLW20
KozlovRW20
KarlssonC12
HartiganC11
TapperRW11
VigierRW11
KaczowkaLW10
StewartLW10
ExelbyD10
HerpergerC10
HrkacC02
KaberleD01
SmehlikD01
SvartvadetC01
EakinsD01
FlacheD01

A few things to notice in the scoring. First is how far down the list Kovalchuk is. For someone who seems to score so effortlessly in the regular season, he’s been very quiet in camp. His accuracy is a bit off currently–he has missed the net wide too many times to count. His whole line is struggling to get on the scoresheet, but look fine otherwise.

Another thing to notice is that Stefan is the highest scoring center in camp. This is important because the scoring center slots on the top two lines are yet to be determined. The Kallio-Hrkac-McEachern line was the highest scoring of the lines of players likely to make the roster, and they looked good doing it as well. Gamache, Vigier and Blatny have scored more, but aren’t in competition for spots, with the exception of Vigier.

Safronov is the highest scoring defenseman thus far. Cowan is tied for fifth in scoring despite being in line for a job on a checking line.

There are no goalie statistics available due to the fact that three goalies play each scrimmage. The third goalie relieves each of the starters approximately halfway through each period. Because the time of each goal and each goalie change is unknown, a GAA cannot be computed.


In the net

There are five goalies in training camp: Milan Hnilicka, Pasi Nurminen, Frederic Cassivi, Norm Maracle, and Michael Garnett. All are under contract with the Thrashers, meaning that one of them will end up in Greenville (ECHL) for at least part of the year. That will likely be rookie Michael Garnett. Norm Maracle came to camp on time and in relatively good shape, but he hasn’t played well in the scrimmages.


Injuries

Snyder: back
Svartvadet: hand
Tremblay: groin

None of these players will be available for tomorrow night’s preseason game.

Comments and questions are welcomed on the Thrashers Message Board.