Thrashers 2009-10 NCAA prospects update

By Aubrey Chau

Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW
6’3, 198 lbs,  Bowling Green

Drafted in the seventh round by Atlanta in 2009, Samuels-Thomas is making an impact in the NCAA as a freshman. Known for having great hands and his excellent work with the puck down low, Samuels-Thomas has made a successful transition from the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL to Bowling Green. In his first 20 games, he is already leading Bowling Green in goals and points, with seven goals and nine assists, for 16 points and was recognized for it when he was named the CCHA Rookie of the Week in late November.

Projected to be a physical power forward type player who lacks the foot speed for the NHL, Samuels-Thomas is working hard to prove his detractors wrong. 

Daultan Leveille, C
5’10, 163 lbs, Michigan State

Just two-thirds of the way into his sophomore season in the NCAA with the Michigan State Spartans, Leveille has already matched his offensive production from last year with four goals and 13 assists for 17 points in 23 games. As a freshman last year, it took him 38 games to reach the same point total, which was good for second in team scoring. This season, the Spartans have improved their offense significantly, and Leveille sits fifth in team scoring. 

Leveille is still adjusting to the speed of the game and the size of his opponents. However, he is a great skater with excellent hands whose biggest weakness is his size, or lack thereof. To improve his play and his chances of playing in the NHL, Leveille will need to bulk up.

John Albert, C
5’10, 180 lbs, Ohio State

Albert is well on his way to leading the Ohio State in assists for the third season with four goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 22 games. However, if there were to be any criticism of Albert’s play on the ice, it would be for him to shoot the puck more. This might be surprising to hear about a young player who has named Martin St. Louis (someone who has never been shy about shooting the puck) as his favorite player. 

It was a disappointing first half for the Buckeyes, but they have kicked off the second half of their season much stronger, thanks in part, to Albert and the chemistry he’s found with his linemates, Hunter Bishop and C.J. Severyn (CAL). Still, despite his great hands and passing ability, Albert will need to shoot more and round out his game to make the jump to the professional ranks.

Jesse Martin, C
6’0, 170 lbs, University of Denver

Last season was a difficult one for Martin, who spent the whole season playing with a torn labrum. Despite his injury, he was still able to post his personal best point totals. He had surgery during the off-season, and is now almost pain-free and considered one of the University of Denver’s top two-way forwards.

With nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 22 games, Martin is just one goal from matching his goal total from last year. Like so many of the Thrashers other forward prospects, he needs to get bigger. If Martin can stay healthy, he should post his personal best in points and counted on to play in all game situations.      

Vinny Saponari, RW
6’0, 179 lbs, Boston University
In his sophomore season, Saponari has not exactly played up to expectations and has scored three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 18 games with the Boston University Terriers. That point total is good for part of a five-way tie for second in team scoring. Despite being second in assist for the Terriers, it has been a disappointing season for Saponari, as they were counting on him to take a step forward and make a bigger impact. Lately, Saponari has shown some chemistry playing with Zach Cohen and Corey Trivino (NYI), and has helped the Terriers notch a few wins in their last two games.      

Zach Redmond, D
6’2, 204 lbs, Ferris State University

Redmond showed up at the Thrashers prospect camp in excellent shape, with four percent body fat (lowest of all prospects) and carried his stellar conditioning over to the Ferris State University Bulldogs. He began his junior season off with a bang and has carried that momentum forward with four goals and 15 assists, for 19 points in 22 games, which is good enough to lead the Bulldogs in assists and place him as the CCHA’s top scoring defenseman.

If Redmond continues to play at this level, he stands a good chance of repeating as the Bulldogs MVP. Another season with the Bulldogs, and Redmond should be ready to make an impact in the professional ranks.

Will O’Neill, D
6’1, 205 lbs, University of Maine

As a sophomore who is fifth in scoring among defensemen in the Hockey East Conference, O’Neill is looking like a decent late-round draft pick. With four goals and 13 assists for 17 points in 20 games, O’Neill has already surpassed his point production from his freshman season.

While concerns linger about his skating, O’Neill has emerged into a solid college defenseman with the reputation as a quiet, but intense leader who hates losing, attributes which could prove valuable if he decides to pursue a pro career.

Alex Kangas, G
6’1, 175 lbs, University of Minnesota

It has been a bit of a disappointing season for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are barely holding onto .500. As a sophomore last year, Kangas was named team MVP with a 17-11-6 record, 2.34 GAA and .901 save percentage. Despite the Gophers less than stellar play in front of Kangas, he has so far, still been able to slightly improve his statistics from last season, with a 2.59 goals against average, and a .910 save percentage. With a 9-7-0 record, it will be a stretch for him to top his winning record from last season.