Regular Season Finish: 13th in Eastern Conference
Aside from making a brief postseason appearance in 2007, the Thrashers haven’t really had much success as a franchise. Despite having players of varying talent levels at all positions, Atlanta has not yet been able to put together the right combination of players to give them any lasting success. At the 2009 draft, they may have found one of their missing pieces, when Evander Kane fell into their laps at number 4 on the draft board. While the three players selected above him were all excellent prospects, Kane is a perfect fit for the Thrashers, who could certainly use a talented player with his nose for hard work. Expect Kane to jump right into the lineup and have an immediate impact, if initial signs are anything worth following.
After drafting Kane, the Thrashers decided to shake things up a little bit, trading fan favorite Garnet Exelby to the Toronto Maple Leafs for veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina. While Exelby was loved by the fans for his love of physical play, Kubina is a very solid defenseman with a good set of hands. Included in that trade was Tim Stapleton, an American forward who has yet to make his mark on the NHL, despite putting together a number of impressive seasons in other leagues; first in Finland, and last season in the AHL.
The Thrashers also re-signed a number of role players, including Colby Armstrong and starting goalie Kari Lehtonen. One of the most important acquisitions they made however, was the signing of towering Kazakh center Nik Antropov. Antropov was the leading scorer on Toronto before being traded to New York at the trade deadline. More importantly, he and superstar Ilya Kovalchuk spent playing time together in Russia, before either of them had made the move to North America. If Antropov and Kovalchuk work well together, and Kane can make a serious positive impact, the Thrashers could finally have more than one offensive line capable of putting the puck in the net.