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The Short and Wonderful NHL Career of Boris Valabik

...Or the story of how Blake Wheeler became an Atlanta Thrasher.

Atlanta Thrashers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In the last season for the Atlanta Thrashers in Atlanta, there was a potentially franchise changing trade: Rich Peverly and Boris Valabik to the Boston Bruins for Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler. The big get was the current Winnipeg Jets captain Wheeler and the price was stellar. Valabik had not been in the NHL all year and Peverly had been having a career year, but was not usually a top six player. The cost was minor for the Thrashers and general manager Rick Dudley jumped all over the trade.

Valabik being one of the players involved in the deal should really be a non-factor; a player involved to balance contracts moving more than anything, but the fact Valabik had played in the NHL and was drafted in the first round could be traced back to a Boston Bruin: Zdeno Chara. Valabik was a big and hitty defenceman, to borrow a term from French analyst Olivier Bouchard. When a player is big and hitty, teams tend to give them more chances to prove their meddle and Valabik had proven to not be a NHL player.

How did Chara influence Valabik? While Valabik was exceptionally big and hitty, much like Chara. Instead of understanding that Chara is the exception and not the rule, teams keep on drafting for the next Chara or Chris Pronger which leads you to the Valabiks of the world. Valabik ended up playing 80 NHL games over three seasons for the Thrashers recording a grand total of seven assists. Valabik played last season in the AlpsHS in Europe. It was a league in it’s first season. He fell a long way from being a first round NHL draft pick.

Boris Valabik never really did anything as a NHL player or even in the AHL. Since leaving North America in 2012 he has played in various leagues around Europe. He was taken at a time when big and hitty defencemen were at a premium, which probably at least partially explains why the Thrashers thought they should draft him tenth overall. Valabik was never good enough to be a NHLer, but he still helped make a major contribution to the Thrashers/Jets: he was part of the trade that brought Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to the team and that is a huge thing.