- Kari Lehtonen. Of course. Lehtonen signed a 1 year deal this offseason, making many a Thrasher fan wonder why not long term. I was one. After careful consideration I think this will be a plus. Up to this point Kari has been successful, but has lacked the consistency to be an elite goaltender in this league. He certainly has the talent, but has yet to show he can carry a team, or even show up every night. A 1 year deal puts him on the hot seat yet again, playing for another contract. Another year under his belt, an improved defense in front of him, and the motivation of another impending contract should give Kari all of the tools he needs to carry this team night in and night out.
- Eric Christensen. This team needed a talented center, and Christensen is it. I know he is unproven, he really never had a chance to show his stuff in Pittsburgh (some Pens fans would argue with me about that). How could he crack that lineup with any consistency? EC is going to have his chance here in Atlanta. He will most likely be our first line center, flipping the puck to Ilya Kovalchuk as much as he can. If EC can live up to his potential, he could be the real steal of the Hossa trade, and make most fans forget we let Marc Savard walk a couple of years back. I will be watching him almost exclusively when we get rolling in October, a successful season for him goes hand in hand with overall team success.
- Boris Valabik. Big Boris may still be considered a bust. Valabik was drafted #10 overall in 2004 and has spent all of his career up until the last 10 or so games of last year developing. A 6' 7" defensive defenseman with a real nasty streak in him, Boris is going to have to step up and play a ton of solid minutes in '08-'09. If Valabik can handle the load, the Thrashers will have a really solid top 2 pairings with Havelid-Enstrom, Hainsey-Valabik. Our defense is quick and handles the puck well, now we need some serious nastiness to defend in our own end. Boris Valabik is the key to that success.
As stated earlier, there are a ton of question marks; Is Zach Bogosian NHL ready? Will Kozlov have a rebound year? Is Ilya one foot out the door already? Can the new coaches sytem be successful? But these are the 3 guys I will be expecting a lot from for the Atlanta Thrashers success in '08-'09.