Atlanta Thrashers: First Quarter Report Card

Peter BojarinovAnalyst INovember 26, 2010

Atlanta Thrashers: First Quarter Report Card

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    Let's take a look at the current Atlanta Thrashers roster and hand out some first-quarter report cards.

    The Thrashers currently sit eight in the Eastern Conference, which means they are on pace to make the playoffs.

    The Thrashers are now a four-line cooperative, hard-working, high-energy team by committee, with plenty of offense coming from all lines, even more so from the defense, which leads to many opportunities the other direction.

    Now with a slightly better defense and maybe stronger goaltending, they could surprise and be a team to reckon with, which I believe they will.

    We'll first look at the forwards, then the defense and finally the goaltending.

Andrew Ladd

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    The team's new captain and offensive leader has brought a lot more than just his energy to this team. The biggest surprise is that he is in the top 15 in the league in points.

    Ladd is going to the net with vigor and has a strong offensive vision. He also brings experience, and a keen work ethic, which is why GM Rick Dudley brought him in.

    Grade: A

Evander Kane

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    Tied for first on the team in goals and hits by forwards, he is also first among forwards in missed shots and second worst in plus/minus in the entire team.

    Kane continues to improve and grow in his sophomore season in the NHL. His speed, vision and spunk enable him to be a strong offensive forward. As long as he works a bit more on his defensive game, he will be a top player for the Thrashers for many seasons.

    Grade: B-

Niclas Bergfors

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    Third among forwards in assists and points, Bergfors continues to find his game, while still posting fairly good numbers and a better two-way game than last season (his rookie season).

    The conservative, silent forward is second on the team in giveaways to takeaway ratio. Bergfors has the talent to be a top six sniper; hopefully it isn’t too far away.

    Grade: B-

Rich Peverley

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    Rich Peverly is second among forwards in assists on the team and is among the top 10 in the league in faceoff winning percentage. His faceoffs have given the team a chance to be in the right place at the right time with the puck, especially on power plays and in the offensive zone.

    Peverley the playmaker, much like some others on the team, needs to work more in his own zone and start burying his chances on goal.

    Grade: B-

Anthony Stewart

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    This power forward has a strong all-around game after working on it in the AHL.

    His fore-checking, energy and commitment to the team is paying off, and he’s finally getting a chance in the NHL to show what he can do this season.

    Grade: B-

Nik Antropov

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    Nik Antropov is fourth on the team in goals, third in blocked shots among forwards, as well as last on the team in plus/minus. His offensive stats are pretty good considering he’s playing bottom six minutes this season and isn’t playing on the penalty kill.

    Ramsey hasn’t been playing Antropov much considering his offseason hip surgery. Actually, if you look at his play, he was awful in the first eight games, with only one assist to show for it. Since then he’s had six goals and 10 points in the last 12 games, look for his play to keep improving as the lingering effects of his surgery are finally wearing off.

    Antropov should start getting more ice time on the top two lines, as well as on the top power play since he’s first on the team in power-play goals while playing on the second power-play unit. But I actually think the team would improve most if Antropov was on their brutal penalty kill, which is fifth to last in the NHL.

    Grade: C+

Bryan Little

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    Little is fourth on the team in plus/minus, which is not a bad number considering the offseason he had last year.

    Little has also been battling a few minor injuries this season, but that hasn’t taken away from his growth as a player.

    After last season, Little learned that if you don’t have an offensive game, you need to find out how to play proper defense to still help the team win games. Little now has a better two-way game this season, which is why he is second on the team in takeaways.

    However, he still needs to find that scoring touch he had two seasons ago.

    Grade: C+

Alexander Burmistrov

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    Burmistrov leads the forwards in plus/minus, which is pretty good considering he’s a rookie. He also leads the team in takeaways by many, while also playing on the PK.

    Burmistrov has a good head on his shoulders for a player who just turned 19. He still has to find consistency, but has shown signs of brilliance with an amazing goal last week against the Capitals.

    His offense will come as he learns the NHL game and gains more experience.

    Grade: B-

Freddy Modin

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    Fifth to last on the team in plus/minus, this aging scoring forward needs to find a better defensive game if he’s still willing to play in the NHL.

    Modin hasn’t hit double digits in goals in the past four seasons, but looks on track to hit that this year, as he's found a better fit with the up-tempo Thrashers.

    Grade: C-

Ben Eager

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    The team’s agitator leads the forwards in hits and is fourth on the team in plus/minus.

    Eager’s work ethic and attitude rubs off on others and has made the team better. As long as Eager continues to play this way, others will build off his vibe.

    Grade: B-

Chris Thorburn

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    Thorburn is first among forwards in blocked shots and last on the team in giveaways, which is even better considering his 15 takeaways with much less ice time than others.

    His wild energy has given the team a boost but a few bad penalties, as well. Chris is a fairly good role player, but he and his teammates have to be better at the penalty kill.

    Grade: C+

Jim Slater

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    The team's face-off specialist is fourth on the team in hits. Slater is steady, and provides a rest for others, but still needs to improve his two-way game and help in the offense if possible.

    Grade: C-

Nigel Dawes

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    While only playing six games, he is in the team's bottom five in plus/minus. Dawes usually has a strong fore-checking game and is able on the PK, with some offense, yet has shown none of this in the games he has played.

    When he does get into the lineup, Dawes should be given a chance to help the team’s penalty kill, which will improve his confidence in his overall game.

    Grade: D

Dustin Byfuglien

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    Dustin Byfuglien is second in the league among defensemen and first on his own team amongst all players in points. He is also first in the entire league in game winners and overtime goals.

    Byfuglien has a penchant for big-time goals and plays, as you may have noticed in last year's postseason.

    Big Buff has started this season in his original position as a defenseman by Craig Ramsey. Most critics, including myself, thought this was odd with the way he played the power-forward role in Chicago, but he has used his old position and the added ice-time to his advantage.

    Grade: A

Tobias Enstrom

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    Enstrom is fouth in assists and in the top 10 in points among defensemen in the entire NHL. He's also third highest in points on the power play in the NHL. This power-play specialist has also  grown to be more of a complete player this season.

    Enstrom reminds some critics of a Tomas Kaberle—a good puck carrier, a set-up point man on the power play who needs to shoot more and owns good vision.

    Enstrom might even be able to surpass Kaberle, who’s never been known to be a good defensive player. Enstrom is fourth on the team in blocked shots, on a team which is one of the best in that category.

    Grade: B+

Johnny Oduya

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    Oduya is tied for last among defensemen in plus/minus. Though third on the team in blocked shots, Oduya needs to be better defensively.

    This season Oduya seems to be in an odd position defensively at times, which is odd because he’s usually better than his current play.

    Grade: C-

Zack Bogosian

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    Bogosian is also tied with Oduya with the lowest plus/minus on the team among defensemen.

    Bogo has been fighting a shoulder injury, which has kept him out of six games. After having a strong rookie campaign and then a solid start to last season, (his sophomore season) he has really tailed off, misplaying his man in the defensive zone, and losing most of his offensive game, which is where his talent lies.

    Bogosian is also first on the team in giveaways, and ranks second among defensemen in missed shots, which is really high considering he hasn’t played as much as the others.

    Bogosian needs to steady his game. With the addition of Byfuglien on defense, it has diminished his importance to the team, and I think that has hurt some of his game and growth.

    Grade: D

Brent Sopel

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    Brent Sopel is first on the team in plus/minus, and in the top five in the NHL in blocked shots.

    Sopel has impressed with his defensive game, which even the Blackhawks thought was diminishing in his game. Sopel has proven the critics wrong though, with strong defensive play so far this season.

    He needs to help out his teammates more and get the penalty kill back on track.

    Grade: B+

Ron Hainsey

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    Much like Sopel, his defense has been fairly solid. Hainsey is right behind Sopel with 48 blocked shots, good for second on the team.

    The defenseman needs to be caught less flat footed at times and needs to help fix that penalty kill, but other than that, his game is fairly solid.

    Grade: B-

Chris Mason

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    Chris Mason is third to last in the NHL in goals against average, and in the bottom five in save percentage among goaltenders who have played 10 or more games.

    Mason has been given more games this season while Pavelec has been out, but he can’t be blamed too much for the goals against average since the Thrashers are second highest in the NHL in shots allowed.

    Still, Mason has only made the team worse by allowing so many rebounds. A team is only as good as its goaltender on the penalty kill, which is why the Thrashers are among the worst.

    Mason has to be better for the team to achieve the playoffs, or let Pavelec start more.

    Grade: D

Ondrej Pavelec

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    Pavelec is third in the NHL in both GAA and save percentage.

    After a freak injury in the first game of the season, Pavelec has steadily gotten better since coming back. Now with three superb outings against top teams in the recent games, he’s been on fire, in which he only allowed two goals.

    Playing 50/50 with Johan Hedberg in Atlanta last season, he’s now been given the reins of the team, and he’s taking it in stride. If he continues to play more, the team will only improve.

    Grade: B+