Atlanta Thrashers, Stacked in Goal and Uncertainties

The Thrashers are in a position lots of teams and general managers would envy – organizational depth at defense and goaltending.  Say what you will about their management of NHL level talent and players, Atlanta has a good crop of up and comers waiting to duke it out for a spot on the team at this year’s development camp.

I got a chance to take a look at the two newest goaltender signees, Chris Carrozzi and Ed Pasquale, last season at prospect camp.  Carrozzi was our 2008 6th rounder (158th overall) and Pasquale was taken at 117th overall in the fourth round at last season’s draft.  Both goaltenders have were beyond clutch in the OHL playoffs this season, as Ben Wright at the Blueland Blog points out.  Carrozzi led goaltenders in the playoffs with a 2.14 GAA, and Pasquale was close behind at a 2.33.

From my notes from prospect camp, here’s what I had to say about Carrozzi:

…Everything that I noticed today about his lateral movement was not stellar. When he dropped to the butterfly, he dropped. And stayed there. His push left to right (and vice versa) was not particularly strong and a few people scooted pucks past him because of that. Also, his glove hand was not nearly as quick a Pasquale’s. Blocker/stick side he was perfectly fine. I didn’t want to go up to Chris and ask him if he thought he needed to work on this, because he’s the hockey player and I’m the dork with the computer. Thankfully, when I asked my canned “what do you consider something you need to work on?” question, those were the first (and only) two things out of his mouth. He said that he works with a trainer one-on-one practically constantly on fixing those issues and he knows that they’re a problem. I find that comforting to know that he can recognize an issue and work very hard to correct it.

When I asked what he felt he had in common with Kari’s style of play (weak glove side aside), he said that he feels that he has a strong ability to see where the play’s moving and to react appropriately to prevent the goal. I noticed that he did not drop early on shots on him and he did try his best to move before as the puck was shot to block. This might be to compensate for his lack of lateral movement.

It’s confirmed that they’re both solid enough for entry level contracts, but where do they go?  The Gladiators are shared with the Blackhawks and the Blue Jackets, so it’s increasingly hard for Thrashers goaltending prospects to get playing time at the ECHL level.  What of Chicago?  We’re doubled up there, too, with Mannino and MacIntyre in goal.  MacIntyre has another year on his contract, and Mannino is a RFA.  The Thrashers will probably look to re-sign him seeing the stellar season that he had.  Both goaltenders, actually, had solid years for the Wolves.  One of them, probably MacIntyre, will be getting some time during the pre-season for sure, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see both net some playing time here and there.  Will they play themselves onto the Thrashers, though?

Ondrej Pavelec is a RFA currently looking to be re-signed to a slightly larger contract.  The jury is out as to if he deserves one or not – his flashes of brilliance were marred by some horribly inconsistent play throughout the season.  The player that deserves the payraise is Johan Hedberg.  The 37 year old netminder is coming off of an absolutely stellar season that should influence how much he gets signed for.  The rub is, will it be the Thrashers that sign him?  Moose is a UFA come July 1st, and no talks have begun with him as of yet.

If Hedberg leaves, that’d leave room for the goalies to all be bumped up a slot.  But, if Hedberg leaves, that’d make for a wonky situation.  We’d be relying on two unproven goaltenders – both with huge amounts of talent but both lacking experience.  If next season is the year that we finally make it back into the playoffs (as this season should have been, but that’s neither here nor there), can we do that on the backs of a young kid and a rookie?  Looking at the teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s a possibility.  But, for a team as potentially shaky as the Thrashers, is it a risk that the organization’s willing to take?