Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Where are they now -- defense edition

I've previously posted about some goaltenders and forwards who once played in the Thrashers system, and what they were up to now. Today is defensemen -- the area of biggest disappointment for the Thrashers. Why so? There's both a fish that got away in Brian Pothier, a fish that was uncatchable in Ilja Nikulin, and several fish that weren't worth the bait. And among three second rounders, only one game played in the NHL.

The table below shows points per game, total NHL games played, games played for the Thrashers, and how they were acquired by the Thrashers.

Defenseman Team GP Pts Pts/gp NHL total GP NHL gp ATL Acquired
Braydon Coburn Flyers (NHL) 37 14 0.38 95 38 1st, 2003
Brian Pothier Wash (NHL) 36 14 0.39 290 36 free agent
Joe DiPenta Anaheim (NHL) 20 4 0.20 171 3 trade

Jimmy Sharrow Manitoba (AHL) 28 13 0.46 0 0 4th, 2003
Jeff Dwyer Utah (ECHL) 30 7 0.23 0 0 6th, 2000

Ilja Nikulin Russia 39 10 0.26 0 0 2nd, 2000
Libor Ustrnul Czech 21 0 0.00 0 0 2nd, 2000
Paul Flache Germany 2 30 6 0.20 0 0 5th, 2002
Luke Sellars none

1 1 2nd, 1999
Mike Vannelli none

4th, 2003
Lane Manson none

4th, 2002

Coburn was traded for Alexei Zhitnik last year at the trade deadline. He's been playing 20:10 in ice time this year for the Philadelphia Flyers, fourth among their defensemen. He's +9.

Undrafted, Pothier was signed as a free agent by the Thrashers during the 1999-00 season out of RPI. He was traded to the Senators before the 2002-03 season for Shawn McEachern, who became the Thrashers captain. Pothier was later signed by the Washington Capitals as a free agent. For the Caps, he averages 18:42 in ice time, fourth on the team.

Stepping into the wayback machine, I remember watching Pothier play for the IHL Orlando SolarBears in 2000, when the Thrashers were affiliated with them. Marty Turco was in net for the opposition Michigan K-Wings and was considered a hot prospect. How's that for ancient history? It's too bad there's no hockey in Orlando anymore, because that was a great road trip.

DiPenta was traded to the Thrashers in 2002 for journeyman Jarrod Skalde. He averages 10:41 in ice time for Anaheim, right behind Shane Hnidy, who has 13:08.

Jeff Dwyer was drafted late, in the sixth round, but was talked up by the Thrashers during his tenure it the system. GM Don Waddell called him "the most skilled defenseman in the organization" while Dwyer was still at Yale. This comment made me think, "hmm, I must not be watching closely enough." Years later, I think the verdict speaks for itself.

I said a few weeks ago that Lane Manson was the only guy to cry while I was talking to him. Well, Dwyer was very close. We spoke a few minutes after he re-injured his groin in what was a season-ending injury. I think he knew he was done and was a little shell-shocked. He only played11 games that year.

Ilja Nikulin is probably the most frustrating circumstance on the list, because he's still owned by the team, and good enough to make the NHL, he just doesn't want to come to North America. And there's not much a team can do about it, or would want to really, if that's how he feels.

Libor Ustrnul returned to the Czech Republic after his sister's death, and he remains there. Hopefully he is confining his passion for car racing to tracks and not the streets as he did in Chicago. Ustrnul was a funny guy though. When the Gladiators all got Mohawks, he took off his hat, showing me his bleached one, and said "Put that in your newspaper." It's not quite as funny without the thick accent.

Paul Flache is frustrating looking back too, because he's a big guy with good skill - he seemed like he had all the tools. But he never put it together and elevated his game. Well, actually at times he did, like the playoff series-clinching goal against the Louisiana IceGators a few years ago. That was one of the best goals I've ever seen, at any level.

Mike Vannelli was unsigned by the Thrashers, and retired after playing just two games for the ECHL Wheeling Nailers. He's now back home in Minnesota. Lane Manson also retired partway through this year and reportedly will play basketball for the Univ. of Saskatchewan.

Luke Sellars played five games for Iserlohn this year in Germany alongside Norm Maracle (an unholy alliance if you ever saw one), before being dismissed from the team for a bar brawl with a teammate. His one NHL game played came when the Chicago Wolves were out in Salt Lake City and flights to Atlanta could not be purchased in time. Sellars drove down from Greenville, where he was playing for the Grrrowl in the ECHL. He only played about four minutes.


nfieldr said...

It's hard to believe, but it's been almost 4 years since that Flache OT goal. That goal, and the series clinching one that Goodjohn scored in Mississippi during the playoff series that year, are my two most favorite Gladiator highlights.

toph2o said...

Libor is indeed a very, very funny guy.