The ice at the Atlanta Thrashers training facility at the Duluth IceForum is in the worst condition in years, but the team’s prospects look better than perhaps ever before at the fourth annual Prospects Development Camp. There have been two days of drills thus far, with seven more to go including power skating. Below is a look at the skaters in camp thus far, in order of jersey number.
Colin Stuart – Stuart’s skills haven’t really improved since last year, or perhaps even the year before, but the good news is that they were already good enough to play pro hockey. He does everything well, but nothing is outstanding except his skating. Puckhandling continues to be the area to improve if any.
Jim Slater – Slater is another player who has seemed to level off in development as he enters his senior year at Michigan State. Last summer showed a big jump in his development and he was clearly the best forward at prospects camp. He doesn’t stand out as much this year now that others have caught up a bit. Perhaps he isn’t trying as hard to impress, either.
Colton Fretter – After Aquino, Fretter is probably the smallest prospect forward in camp. He does everything adequately, though his stickhandling is a bit tenuous at times. He could be stronger on the puck, handle it with more authority. His scrappiness is what will take him places and he’s been able to demonstrate that a few times.
Pat Dwyer – Dwyer is very skilled, but you have to pay attention to appreciate it, he’s not flashy by any means. He almost always manages to get a shot away, no matter how desperate the situation looks.
Stephen Baby – The oldest Thrashers prospect at camp at 24 years old, he should be more advanced than he is compared to younger competition. To play a power forward role he will need to work on what is a very inaccurate shot. He’s here for the power skating and it can only help.
Anthony Aquino – Aquino was the victim of the first camp on-ice mishap, as he was cut in the chin with the errant stick of Brad Schell. He was playing linesman for centers practicing faceoffs.
Rylan Kaip – Kaip keeps up with the crowd, but does not stand out. For a ninth round pick at his first prospect camp, this is a decent accomplishment. He has a finisher’s instincts – he doesn’t quit the drill until the puck is in the net. He shows good defensive skill as well.
Guillaume Desbiens – Desbiens has improved from last year, though part of that might simply be that he is in better condition this time as he knew ahead that he was coming, and what would be expected of him. He still has a lot of work to do though, in almost every skill category.
Brad Schell – Schell looks about the same as last year, a good shot with decent all-around skill. If there’s no NHL training camp, where he goes this fall could depend on what the organization last saw of him. He could stand to spruce up his application for the Chicago Wolves a bit more.
Chad Painchaud – Painchaud is showing a good shot, but the rest of him needs some polishing. He has been one of few to beat Lehtonen cleanly, by holding the puck a bit longer than most. The speed he has shown in the past has not been evident at the camp thus far. He is struggling a bit physically against the bigger and stronger defensemen, and is rushed into a pass he might not want to make.
Jeff Dwyer – Dwyer changes direction extremely well and has some of the softest hands in camp. He has a good shot, but needs to focus on developing that aspect of his game even more if he’s going to make it as an offensive defenseman.
Brian Sipotz – Sipotz has the unfortunate distinction of being the most raw Thrashers prospect in camp. His skating lacks mostly speed but agility as well and he can greatly improve his stickhandling. Already 22, it’s not clear how much better he will get. He hasn’t advanced much since previous camps.
Boris Valabik – Valabik is making a good first showing in Atlanta, clearly one of the best on the ice. He’s been very effective in defensive drills and his shot is much better than advertised, routinely beating the goalie. The one particular skating aspect to work on is turning forwards to backwards, but otherwise his footwork in the drills has been fine.
Scott Lehman – Lehman does everything adequately, but nothing spectacularly. A 2004 pick, he’s got lots of time to improve, particularly his shot and accuracy in passing.
Braydon Coburn – Coburn has made significant improvement since last year’s prospect camp and training camp. He’s much more confident and aggressive and makes it clear why the organization is so high on him. He was probably the best defenseman on the agility drills.
Michael Vannelli – Vannelli is working very hard at the camp and has some good moves for a defenseman. He skates about as well as Sharrow, but like him, his biggest problem looks to be a lack of weight.
Lane Manson – Manson clearly gets the most improved award compared to last year. His skating has improved by leaps and bounds. It’s still an area to work on, particularly agility, but it shouldn’t hold him back as it would have before. Now he can look to improving other parts of his game as well, like his shot.
Jim Sharrow – Sharrow has so much talent, he has it to spare. There’s no way to miss this offensive defenseman as he skates and shoots circles around other players. If he can fill out he’ll be about as good as they come out of juniors. Seen grimacing in camp, it’s unclear if he’s got some sort of injury.
Nathan Oystrick – This is the first prospects camp for Oystrick, who will be a junior this fall. He does all the drills with ease, though has fallen several times inexplicably. He will be one to benefit from the power skating at the end of the week, as he could stand to work on his speed. He’s been very effective in the defensive drills.