Thrashers Goalie Depth Chart
Here is how the Thrashers goalie depth chart looks as the 2001-02 season winds down. Note that the numbering reflects the current pecking order, not their future potential.
1. Milan Hnilicka (signed as free agent in
2000) Backed up Rhodes during 2000-2001 season and saw a good deal of action due to injuries. He took complete charge of the starting job in 2001-02 and has been solid in goal, with a .908 save %, about 15th best in the league. Hnilicka has very good international credentials, but is relatively unknown around the NHL. He led the Czech team to gold in the 2001 World Championships and was named to the 2002 Olympic team to replace the injured Cechmanek. Perhaps the most underrated goalie in the NHL, the starting job is his to lose next year.
2. Damian Rhodes (acquired via trade from Ottawa prior to 1999 Expansion
Draft) The #1 goalie first two seasons in name only, he saw little time due to injury. Rhodes played better this year, but once again went down with injury in January 2002 and did not return. He is on the downside of his career. It would not be surprising to see him either traded or bought out of his contract over the summer to make room for younger, more promising goalies.
3. (tie) Pasi Nurminen (2001 draft pick) Drafted as a 26-year-old out of the Finnish League, Nurminen is another Thrashers goalie with impressive international credentials. He led the Finnish national team to silvr in the 2001 World Championships and was named to the 2002 Finnish Olympic team. Nurminen missed training camp while rehabilitating from injury. When he got back on the ice, he was assigned to Chicago of the AHL. He was called up to Atlanta in January 2002 when Rhodes was injured. Sent back down to Chicago in March 2002 after a few poor outings.
3. (tie) Frederic Cassivi (Acquired via trade from Colorado, January 2002) Cassivi has thusfar been a career minor league goalie, stuck in the depth charts of the Colorado organizatin. He was playing with the AHL Hershey Bears when acquired, and was transferred to the Chicago Wolves. He was called up to Atlanta in March 2002, likely to determine if he should be resigned after this season. In three starts he is 2-1-0, with a 2.33 GAA and .942 save %. He will likely compete with Nurminen in the fall for the back-up role in Atlanta.
5. Norm Maracle (selected in expansion
draft from DET) Maracle backed up Rhodes in the 1999-2000 season. After showing up to camp overweight in 2000, he played in Orlando of the IHL, winning IHL
MVP. He did not attend camp in 2001, and was assigned immediately to the AHL
Wolves. He is playing well for the Wolves this year. Was called up to the Thrashers for one game this year, which caused a lot of people to be upset. Will likely not return next season.
6. Scott Fankhouser (signed as free agent in
1999) Played in Atlanta part of the first two seasons due to injuries. Last
year was mainly assigned to the SolarBears of the IHL. This year has been assigned to Chicago of the AHL, briefly to Greenville of the ECHL, and loaned to AHL Hershey Bears in January 2002 for the remainder of the 2001-2002 season. He was called up for two games to ATL due to injury. He will likely be resigned and play for Chicago in 2002-03.
7. Zdenek Smid (2000 draft pick) Played in the Czech league in 2000-01, and in the Finnish League in 2001-02. It is unclear if and when he might be brought over to North America. With the large number of goalies the Thrashers own, it is probably best to leave him in Europe until he is NHL ready.
8. Michael Garnett (2001 draft pick) Considered a potential franchise goalie. Sent back to juniors for 2001-02. Will likely spend another year in juniors.
Regardless of the talent and potential of the goalies on the above chart, the Thrashers will likely select another goalie at some point in the 2002 draft to stock the system for the future.