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Hawks Coburn gets a shot at NHL

Atlanta thinks young defenseman can make club right away

The Portland Winter Hawks and their fans may have seen the last of Braydon Coburn.

Atlanta chose Coburn with the eighth pick in last week's NHL draft, and Thrashers General Manager Dan Waddell says he picked Coburn with the idea that the 6-5, 210-pound defenseman could make the club right away.

'We had said if there was one particular player out there, we wouldn't move the pick,' Waddell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 'We feel very fortunate.'

Under NHL underage rules, the 18-year-old Coburn must play for Atlanta, and not its minor league affiliate, each of the next two seasons. Or, the Thrashers must ship him back to Portland.

'I'm going to give myself a chance to make the squad,' Coburn says. 'I'm going to make sure I'm totally prepared. If I have to come back to Portland, I'll be OK with that.'

The Thrashers have great young talent in forwards Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk Ñ 'hard not to notice them on the highlight reels,' Coburn says Ñ and goalie Kari Lehtonen, but they needed the big, young anchor on the blue line.

'A poor man's Chris Pronger,' ESPN analyst Bob McKenzie says of Coburn. 'He is very smart and can really skate, for a big, lanky player. He makes an excellent first pass and reads the play very well on defense. His one-on-one play is exceptional.'

Waddell says Coburn's jump to the Western Hockey League at age 15 showed his ability to step up his game.

Coburn was the 13th Winter Hawk to be chosen in the top 10 of the draft.

'Lot of great sports teams in Atlanta, but I don't know a lot about the city,' says Coburn, who plans to train in his hometown of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, before attending training camp in August.

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