The Franchise Four. The Mount Rushmore. Four players who tell the story of an organization. For criteria, I’m choosing one forward, defenceman, goaltender and a wild card from any position.
Entering the NHL in 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers reached the postseason one time, across eleven seasons.
During said time frame, the Thrashers iced the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa, Kari Lehtonen, Tobias Enstrom, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Marc Savard, Dany Heatley, Patrik Stefan, Bryan Little, Ray Ferraro, Todd White, Rich Peverley, Andrew Brunette, Nikolai Antropov, Yannick Tremblay, Frantisek Kaberle, Jim Slater, Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg.
So, which players make their “Franchise Four?”
4. The Defenseman – Tobias Enstrom
Enstrom played four seasons with the Thrashers, before the franchise moved to Winnipeg. During the 2007-08 season, Enstrom was named to the NHL All-Rookie First Team. Among defensemen in Thrashers franchise history, Enstrom ranks first in points (171), assists (145), power play goals (14), second in goals (26), third in games played (318) and sixth in penalty minutes (178).
3. The Goalie – Kari Lehtonen
Lehtonen played parts of five seasons with the Thrashers. Lehtonen posted three winning campaigns and started two playoff game with Atlanta. Among goalies in Thrashers franchise history, Lehtonen ranks first in games played (204), goals-against average (2.87), save percentage (.912), wins (94) and shutouts (14).
2. The Wild Card – Marian Hossa
Hossa played parts of three seasons with the Thrashers. Hossa was a two-time All-Star with Atlanta. During his time with the Thrashers, Hossa posted goal scoring campaigns of 43, 39 and 26 respectively. Hossa also proved himself to be a solid two-way player, leading the league with seven short-handed tallies in 2005-06. In four postseason contests, Hossa posted one helper. In Thrashers franchise history, Hossa ranks third in goals (108), points (248), power play goals (39), game-winning goals (16), first in short-handed markers (12) and a plus-21 and fourth in assists (140).
1. The Forward – Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk played parts of eight seasons with the Thrashers. Kovalchuk was a three-time All-Star with Atlanta. During the 2003-04 campaign, Kovalchuk earned the Maurice Richard Trophy, netting a league best 41-goals. Kovalchuk recorded two seasons of more than 50 goals, five seasons with more than 40 goals and seven seasons of 30 plus goals. In four postseason contests, Kovalchuk posted a goal and an assist. In Thrashers franchise history, Kovalchuk ranks first in games played (594), goals (328), assists (287), points (615), power play tallies (115) and game-winning goals (40).
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.