Draft time is upon us, and apparently I will write stuff about it. Mostly because it’s summer vacation and one can only bake and cook so much before I go stir crazy. That, and the draft’s always an exciting time around Atlanta since the Thrashers tend to pick high. This season they’ll be choosing 9th overall. The Blues choosing at 14th overall, but I’ll let coverage of Jarmo’s last draft with the team fall to Brian over at Game Time, because he can do it 100 times better than I could even dream of and deserves your reading time. He’s only on Part One of the analysis, but I’m sure tons more is to come. It’s easier for him to get access to the Blues’ prospects seeing as how he’s within a 50 mile radius of both St. Louis and Peoria, and I’m kind of here in Atlanta.
I do have some access to the Thrashers prospects at camp over the summer, though, so it’s easier and more sensible for me to focus on the Thrashers’ draft and development of their young ‘uns. Timmy at BWA (of which Matt’s been nice enough to trust me to contribute to now) has an analysis of the importance of intelligent drafting, not just for the Thrashers but for teams in general. It has all sorts of pie charts and graphs and math related things that I can’t pretend to understand. But building the team up through smart picks outside of the first round is very important, and something that the Thrashers have (to this point) done with defensemen Garnet Exelby and Tobias Enstrom. I’m convinced this tradition will continue with last year’s 7th round pick Zach Redmond after watching him at camp last year. Timmy mentions Pavelec, Postma, Machacek, and Kulda as other players who will act as a continuation of the strength of our later drafting. I agree with Tim as well that the problems that this franchise has seen are not due to drafting errors, but an ability to not get the strongest return for our star players that we have had to trade, the Kovalchuk trade acting as the exception.
The Thrashers have two picks at 9th and 25th overall with which to add to our stable of promising youngsters. NHL.com’s experts have the top round analyzed, and surprise of surprises, they have no idea who we’re taking at either pick. Each expert has a different selection. Kimelman has us choosing Brett Connolly (LW) (who I just wrote a profile on for Chicks Who Give a Puck) and Calvin Pickard (G). Morreale has us picking Mikael Granlund (F) and Jeff Skinner (RW). Raimondi has the Thrashers choosing Riley Sheahan (C) and Quinton Howden (C). Roarke has ATL taking Vladimir Tarasenko (LW) and Dylan McIlrath (D). Finally, Holland sees Atlanta taking Nino Niederreiter (RW) and in the only instance of continuity between the experts for the Thrashers, Calvin Pickard.
The experts, as well as the drafting guys and scouts at each team, tend to choose based on rankings, especially those by the International Scouting Services. Always get the best available player possible, and make room for them later on down the line seems to be the trend, and I agree with it to a degree. I like to amend it to be “get the best player possible at the position you need most.”
What positions do we need filled most? Based on the prospects we have at some level of non-collegiate hockey, here’s the run-down. I only looked at forwards, because frankly that’s where the positions are that we need:
- Jonas Enlund – in Finnish Elite League, but his contract is up with them. Might hop to pros, but not sure if it’s with the ATL organization or with the KHL/European Leagues
- Niklas Lucenius – also in Finnish Elite League, he might make the jump to pros in 2011 Thanks to Falconer for reminding me that we let their rights expire on June 1st. Looks like we’re shorter at center than I assumed.
- Left Wing
- Carl Klingberg – drafted 34th overall in 2009; will probably stay with Frolundia in Sweden for one more season
- Nicklas Lasu – his contract is up in Europe, so competition at prospect camp is expected. He’s not a big guy (5’11”, 176 lbs), but he’s scrappy – good fit for bottom 6 in AHL for time being.
- Patrice Cormier – acquired in the Kovalchuk trade, Cormier was the Devils’ top prospect, and now he’s one of Atlanta’s. Dudley has given every indication that he will compete at camp, possibly for a top six position.
- Eric O’Dell – he’ll probably stay with the Wolves for one more season to build up some strength on the puck
- Right Wing
- Jimmy Bubnik – good hands, but still a few years off from the pros.
- Danick Paquette – a pest and an instigator, he’s a good 4th line energy player a la Jim Slater
- Left Wing
- Levko Koper – quick and offensively capable, he would make a good 3rd liner
- Angelo Esposito – acquired from the Penguins in the Marian Hossa trade, the former first round draft pick has been set back by 2 ACL tears. He’s recovered and is expected to push for a spot on the main Atlanta roster.
- Riley Holzapfel – his production dropped significantly when moved to the Wolves’ checking line. This could be a problem.
- Ryan Kaip – will develop to be a 4th liner at best – our current 4th liners are far preferable
- Left Wing
- Michael Forney – a Thrashers 3rd round draft pick (80th overall in 2006), he has 63 games under his belt with the Glads, and 11goals – he needs a bigger year next season.
- Right Wing
- Spencer Machacek – hard working 3rd liner, his best bet is to replace Colby Armstrong.
- Andrew Kozek – needs more development time
- Matt Siddall – decent start with Gwinnett got Siddall sent back to Victoria. He’s a big guy who probably needs another year before he makes the Wolves.
Overall, the Thrashers might want to look into plugging a hole at wing. We have capable defensive players and goaltenders, and a bit of a logjam at center happening. If Connolly is still available at 9th, he would be a solid pick – the reason he dropped in skater rankings was due to a hip problem, that should be healed by now. Whoever the best winger is, right or left, that is available at 9th, the Thrash probably should hop on.