Thrashers take Georgia native in draft

ATLANTA - It's not often the Atlanta Thrashers have the chance to take a Georgia native in the NHL draft.

Don Waddell seized that opportunity on Saturday, drafting forward Vinny Saponari in the fourth round.

Saponari, a native of Powder Springs near Atlanta, has signed to join older brother Victor Saponari on the Boston University hockey team.

Vinny Saponari, 18, spent the last two years in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was the first Georgia native to participate in the United States Development Program. He recorded 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 49 games with the Under-18 team during the 2007-08 season.

'It's nice to get a home-grown kid,' Waddell said in a telephone interview from Ottawa. 'We know the player very well. We watched him play in the under-18 program.'

Added Waddell: 'If you can get a player born in Georgia and who grew up playing hockey there, it's very nice. He makes the players around him better. He may not be the player to get all the points, but he makes everybody else better. He's going to a great program at Boston U. and whether he's ready in two or four years, we know we'll be ready for him.'

Saponari isn't the first Georgia native to be drafted.

Eric Chouinard, the son of former Atlanta Flames player Guy Chouinard, was born in Atlanta, and was drafted in the first round of the 1998 draft by the Montreal Canadiens.

Waddell drafted five players Saturday, giving the Thrashers seven picks in the draft.

The Thrashers had two first-round picks on Friday night, including defenseman Zach Bogosian, the No. 3 overall pick. Atlanta picked center Daultan Leveille with the No. 29 pick.

Atlanta didn't have a second-round pick. Waddell's first pick on Saturday was right winger Danick Paquette in the third round, followed by Saponari, left winger Nicklas Lasu in the fifth round, goaltender Chris Carrozzi in the sixth round and defenseman Zach Redmond in the seventh round.

It was a big weekend for Waddell, who began his day Friday by announcing he has hired John Anderson as the Thrashers' new coach.

'It's exciting,' Waddell said. 'It will be a good plane ride back home.'