Jim Slater, 28, Center, 6’0, 200 lbs
Last Year's Rating: N/A This Year's Rating: #16 Difference: N/A
Mark Stuart, 27, Defense, 6’2, 218 lbs
Last Year's Rating: N/A This Year's Rating: #15 Difference: N/A
Somehow, Jim Slater always gets lost in the conversation about his play in Atlanta. He was, after all, the Thrashers first round pick (30th overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He was a high scoring center for the Michigan State Spartans for four seasons, including two 48 point seasons in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
However, since his transition to the professional game, Slater has taken on the role of a checking center in his six seasons in the Atlanta organization. He is one of the only remaining Thrashers moving to Winnipeg that played in the playoffs in Atlanta - the famed four game sweep in 2006-07.
Slater debuted for Atlanta in 2005-06 and collected 20 points (ten goals, ten assists) and 46 penalty minutes in 71 games.
He, like Chris Thorburn, are long-time Thrashers. Slater has played all 371 games of his NHL career in Atlanta, where he collected 100 points (47 goals, 53 assists) and 280 penalty minutes.
Unlike Slater, defenseman Mark Stuart has seen another town and city and been able to experience life in an original six city.
Drafted 21st overall in 2003 by the Boston Bruins, Stuart had the great opportunity to not only play defense for Colorado College for three seasons before jumping to the professional ranks, but Stuart thrived once he got to the NHL.
After two seasons spent between the Bruins and their AHL affiliate Providence, Stuart became a full-time fixture on the Boston blueline in 2007-08, playing in all 82 games in both 07-08 and 08-09 campaigns. His career season came in 2008-09 when he collected 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) along with 76 penalty minutes.
However, Stuart underwent injury problems in 2009-10 and only played in 56 games before he was dealt the next season to Atlanta along with Blake Wheeler in a deal for Rich Peverley and others.
In Atlanta, Stuart notched one goal in 23 games along with 24 penalty minutes and a minus eight rating. In 306 career NHL regular season games, Stuart has 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) along with 308 penalty minutes and has had limited playoff experience with Boston, playing in 22 playoff games, notching two assists and 21 penalty minutes.
Stuart provides solid defensive play as a more prototypical stay-at-home defenseman. Tough as nails and not afraid to back down from a fight or a hit, Stuart will be the unheralded hero in Winnipeg for years to come. But the hardcore hockey fans will see him for what he truly is - a steady, reliable, and hard hitting defenseman.