Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg system has decent depth

Ranked seventh in terms of up-and-coming players

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Winnipeg's new NHL franchise hasn't been handed a vault empty of prospects as it takes over the operations of the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Hockey News, in its annual grading of each NHL organization's up-and-coming players, placed Atlanta/Winnipeg seventh out of 30 teams after compiling rankings of 18 NHL scouts. It assesses each club's young talent and any roster player who's 21-and-under.

Winnipeg came up with a B-plus grade, largely on the strength of youngsters Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov and Zach Bogosian on the NHL roster.

It was up two places from ninth the year previous.

The Atlanta/Winnipeg system also sports good prospects like Patrice Cormier, who was acquired 17 months ago from the New Jersey Devils, Carl Klingberg, a 2009 second-round pick, and young defencemen like Paul Postma and Arturs Kulda.

Winnipeg will have a chance to add to the stable with the seventh overall pick in tonight's first round of the 2011 entry draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Craig Heisinger, Winnipeg's assistant GM, wasn't doing handstands about THN's rankings on Thursday, simply taking a wait-and-see approach because of everyone's newness to this NHL world.

"It's hard for me to comment on the players we haven't seen," Heisinger said Thursday at the team's downtown hotel headquarters for this draft. "It's easier to comment on the AHL situation. It would be unfair based on my limited knowledge so far to say if it's accurate or not accurate. Put is this way, I really hope that is accurate."

Heisinger said he has a book on some of the Atlanta prospects who had played against the Moose for the Chicago Wolves, Atlanta's former affiliate.

"Much like the Atlanta team, there are some pieces there," Heisinger said. "Spencer Machacek is developing into a useful player, Riley Holzapfel, too. They're high on defenceman Zach Redmond (a 2008 seventh-rounder who just came out of college), who we didn't see a tremendous amount.

"I know (goalie) Edward Pasquale, they think he's a good prospect. Our opinion is obviously going to change. Sometimes you overrate your own players and undervalue others' players. It's unfair for me to make an assessment three weeks into this job. I only turned the page on the Manitoba Moose until 10 days before the transaction went through because it would have been unfair for my eye not to have been on the Moose ball."

Enhancing the Atlanta/Winnipeg prospects list is another ranking made by THN.

It took each organization's first-round pick since 2007 and matched up those rankings against where the team picked in the draft. Atlanta/Winnipeg fared the best of 30 teams, basically an assessment that its picks had turned out best compared to the team's actual selection slot in the first round of the draft.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2011 C4

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