Thrashers: Training camp report, Day 2

By Holly Gunning

Day 2 of Thrashers training camp continued exactly like Day 1. Coach Bob Hartley has the three squads doing very up-tempo drills, mixed with
long talks at the white board. It’s a very hard-working atmosphere, with whistles
and individual attention given when needed. The drills on Day 2 were much the
same as on Day 1, heavy on breakouts, moving the puck quickly up the ice, passing
between the forwards and defense, and shooting.

Making an impression

Highly-touted prospect Tommi Santala does not look ready for inter-squad
scrimmages, let alone NHL games. The talented Finn is making his North American
training camp debut, and looks tentative and unnatural thus far. He must adjust
to the pace and style of the drills quickly, or he’ll have more time than he wants with the farm club in Chicago
to work on them.

In contrast, checking center Derek MacKenzie came to camp already in
stride. He suffered a cut near his right eye during a battle in the corner,
but it didn’t slow him from hard work and good execution.

Anthony Aquino continues to display good wheels, but questionable hands,
both in passing and shooting.

Winger Brian Maloney is making some nice simple plays and showing that
he can play at a high level. Scrimmages can’t start too early for him, as he
makes his mark with his gritty play. Some of that was displayed today when he
hit Mike Weaver from behind in the corner. Weaver was not hurt.

Captain Shawn McEachern leads by example. Although still in a rehab mode, he
is one of the hardest working players in drills. He was the only skater to practice with a different squad today than yesterday. Friday he was with Team A, today with Team B.

With Kari Lehtonen still out day to day with a groin pull, goaltending prospect Michael Garnett continued double duty today, practicing in both the 9:00-10:15 slot, and the 10:30-12:00 slot.

The four junior players, Braydon Coburn, Jimmy Sharrow, Brad Schell, and
Guillaume Desbiens, are keeping up quite well with the pros. The same
cannot be said for free agent invitee Danny Bois, who seems a bit out
of his league.

New face

Taking Sam Paolini’s vacant tryout slot was a surprise addition. Jason Bonsignore,
famous for being a draft day bust, is in camp, continuing the attempt he started
last year at a comeback in the NHL. Bonsignore, now 27, was the fourth overall pick in
the 1994 draft by the Edmonton Oilers, and was widely agreed to have all the
skills for the NHL, but lacked the heart, self-discipline, work ethic, and commitment to defense. He
was traded to Tampa Bay in 1997 and spend two years in that organization, then
moved on to Toronto. After spending most of his time in the minors, he left
hockey and did not play during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons.

Last year Bonsignore signed a one-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes and played
for their farm club, the Springfield Falcons, as well as the Lowell Lockmonsters.
He scored 26 points in 49 AHL games. Bonsignore played the most NHL games in
1997-98 (35) with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has played 79 NHL games in total.

What better way to try out for the Thrashers than to play on Dany Heatley’s
line. Bonsignore joined Team B and wore red along with Heatley, Zdenek Blatny,
Tommi Santala and Shawn McEachern. The 6’4″, 220-pound center displayed
good speed and great hands, especially close in. If Bonsignore has the true
desire to play and is ready to buy into Coach Hartley’s tough standards, a two-way
contract is likely in his future.

Speed Trials

It was Team B’s turn at Hartley’s suicide drills today. Below are how the groups
finished, from fastest to slowest. Players with 40 or more NHL games last year
are in italics, and prospects are in bold.

Group 1: (extremely close race among all six) Vigier, Aquino, Stefan, Sutton, Kovalchuk,

Group 2: Heins, Lindsay, Piros, Desbiens, Majesky

Group 3: Sellars, Swanson, Tjarnqvist, Nielsen, Maloney

In Group 1, Aquino took an early lead, but was overtaken by Vigier, who had
better endurance.

Link to Day 1’s report.

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