Thrashers set to eye prospects

DULUTH - The Atlanta Thrashers' prospect development camp serves many purposes for players and fans.

It's a chance for some intensive training that will, hopefully, propel Atlanta's young talent into a successful 2008-09 season. It's a chance for hockey fans to get a fix in the middle of summer and see said talent on the ice.

The camp, which runs from Tuesday through July 13 at the Duluth IceForum, is also an opportunity for new head coach John Anderson to indoctrinate the players - although many of those present will be well familiar with the long-time coach of Atlanta's AHL affiliate in Chicago.

"We had three or four guys who finished their junior year and came up and played with us a few games in Chicago," Anderson said. "I saw a lot of them in Traverse City (at the NHL prospect evaluation tournament) the year before, so we're not going to be totally unfamiliar.

"But I still want to be there, let them see my face and how I deal with things so that they're familiar and, hopefully, make the other camps that will come a little easier for them."

Anderson would like the young players to get a feel for things before coming to the team's main training camp in the fall.

"Because the big guys get in and sometimes it gets a little intimidating," said Anderson, who was a first-round draft pick himself and played many years in the NHL before becoming a coach. "I know because I went through it as a rookie. When I see guys like Borje Salming out there and I hadn't played with him, they come up and talk to me and it makes you feel a little bit more at ease. But you get in awe of some of these guys.

"I'm sure when some of these young guys get on the ice with (Ilya) Kovalchuk and see what he can do, it's intimidating."

The camp will feature 32 prospects, including defenseman Zach Bogosian - the Thrashers first-round pick (third overall) in the 2008 draft - and Vinny Saponari, who became the first Georgia born-and-trained player to be drafted into the NHL when the Thrashers selected him in the fourth round June 20.

Also here are forwards Angelo Esposito (20th pick overall by Pittsburgh in 2007), Riley Holzapfel (second round 2006) and Spencer Machacek (third round 2007).

Several players who have seen time with the Gwinnett Gladiators, Atlanta's ECHL affiliate, were invited: Myles Stoesz, Chad Denny, Chad Painchaud and Scott Marchesi.

All the players are trying to make a good and lasting impression on the Thrashers' decision-makers. They'll be put through some serious workouts during the week, but the vibe is generally upbeat.

"I think, again, it's good that they come and enjoy themselves," Anderson said. "That's part of what I want to bring to the Thrashers' organization itself. Hockey is a game.

"I want them to like it and say, "Geez, I can't wait until I'm going to make that jump to the National.'"

All on-ice sessions are free and open to the public.

SideBar: Thrashers Prospect Camp

· When: Tuesday-July 13

· Where:

Duluth IceForum

· On-ice schedule

(subject to change):

· Tuesday: 3-5 p.m.

· Wednesday: 9-10:10 a.m., 10:50 a.m.-noon,

3-5 p.m.

· Thursday: 2:30-5 p.m.

· Friday: 9-10:10 a.m., 3-3:45 p.m., 4:15-5 p.m.

· Saturday: 9-10:50 a.m., 2:30-5 p.m.

· Sunday: 9-10:45 a.m., 2:15-3:15 p.m.,

3:45-4:45 p.m.