In their 10th NHL Entry Draft, the Atlanta Thrashers selected third overall. They took three Americans and just one European. Three of the seven are collegiate players (college or college-bound), including one Canadian.
The positions of players was balanced, with four forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender.
Due to the Marian Hossa trade to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, Atlanta had two first-round picks. Watching the Penguins make the Stanley Cup finals must have been doubly painful, as it caused the gained pick to be dropped back to No. 29.
Zach Bogosian, D – OHL Peterborough
Jul 15, 1990, 6’2, 197
Only with the first few picks of any draft can NHL teams really address needs, because so few 18-year-olds are physically mature enough to play in the NHL. Bogosian is physically mature enough, in fact he blew everyone away at the NHL Combine during physical testing, with he and Colin Wilson being the talk of the event.
A right defenseman, Bogosian also possesses the coveted right-hand shot. He led Peterborough in scoring in 2007-08 with 61 points, the fourth-best among blueliners in the OHL.
Bogosian has good all-around skill, the most complete defenseman available in the draft. He has speed and toughness, a smooth skater and will carry the puck. The only criticism found is that sometimes he gets caught up ice. One of the youngest members of his draft class, the sky is the limit for this still 17-year-old.
Politics of him playing in Canada likely kept him off Team USA last year, but he’s invited to U-20 evaluation camp this year, to be held in August.
Bogosian will be given every chance of making the Thrashers roster in the fall, but the odds are always against all rookie defensemen, let alone 18-year-olds. He will need to really impress. If he doesn’t make it, he’ll return to his junior team where he played as a partner to Thrashers prospect Arturs Kulda.
Daultan Leveille, C – GHL St. Catherines
Aug. 10, 1990, 5’11, 163
Leveille was drafted for his speed, and was one of the fastest skaters in the 2008 draft. Skill-wise, he calls himself a playmaker, but his stats show he’s more of a goal-scorer.
“I believe I’m more of a speedy centerman. That’s my main asset," he said at the draft. "I’ve got good vision on the ice and I’m good with the puck. I work hard game-in and game-out, so I’m just going to do my best to be the best. One of the things that I need to focus on is defensive zone coverage. When you go to school, you do work on those and also getting into the physical training. So I’ll be ready for it pretty soon.”
Leveille is very thin at just 163 pounds, and has never had to play physically because he can dart away from any hits. At college, with players who can keep up with him better, we’ll see how he reacts to physical play.
Leveille played against low-level competition in 2007-08 in the Golden Horseshoe League (junior B) – not just one level, but two levels below major junior. Because of this, you’d expect him to have racked up a lot of points, but he didn’t do so in the regular season, only 29 goals and 27 assists in 45 games. In the playoffs, when there were lots of NHL scouts watching, he scored 30 points in 16 games and was team MVP.
It was lack of size until last year that landed him in junior B, but he’ll jump to near the top of the colleage ladder with Michigan State University in the fall.
Danick Paquette, RW – QMJHL Lewiston
Jul 17, 1990, 6’0, 210
Danick Hudon-Paquette is his full name, but in the past year he’s shortened his playing name to just Danick Paquette. He is the heaviest of the Thrashers draft class at 210 lbs and he’s actually lost weight from a previous high as he improved his conditioning.
Paquette more than doubled his point totals this year, ending with 29 goals and 13 assists in 63 games. Importantly, he also had 213 penalty minutes.
Paquette is an intense sandpaper type of player, with antics reminiscent of former Thrasher prospect Karl Stewart. He’s theatrical, including selling penalties against him. On one occasion, after scoring, Paquette drank out of a goaltender’s water bottle. He was suspended several times last year for questionable (late and/or cheap) hits. Not an enforcer, he will however fight to back up his hits if necessary.
He scores by driving the net, but his passing needs work. The biggest knock on Paquette is his skating, with foot speed an issue, which may be a consequence of his conditioning. He must improve this aspect in order to sniff the NHL.
Vinny Saponari, RW — USNTDP
Feb. 15, 1990, 6’0, 179
Saponari is a skilled player whose best asset is his puckhandling. He can do things at high speed, and protect the puck well. The winger had 33 points in 49 games for the US National Team Development Program. In the U-18 World Championships, the highlight of the schedule, he scored three points in seven games.
Saponari is a local product from Powder Springs, a northwest suburb of Atlanta in Cobb County.
The most recent Georgia product David Caruso had this to say about Saponari’s selection: "Vinny’s selection in the draft is great for Vinny, his family, and for hockey in Georgia. It shows how far hockey has come in Georgia and gives other young hockey players the hope of being selected. The Thrashers have made a great commitment to promoting the sport and giving back to the hockey community in Georgia. I wish Vinny the very best at BU and the rest of his hockey career. I look forward to possibly seeing him in a Thrashers uniform."
Saponari went a little higher than the scouting services had him ranked, but you’ll excuse the hometown team on trying to cash in on a little bit of good public relations following a dismal year.
Saponari is headed to Boston University this fall, where his brother Victor also plays.
Nicklas Lasu, LW – Swe-Jr Frolunda
Sept. 16, 1989, 5’11, 176
If Lasu had been born just one day earlier, he would have been eligible for the 2007 draft.
A player who has come off breakthrough season in the Swedish junior league, Lasu put up good numbers with Frölunda in the junior league with 53 points in 41 games and a +33 rating. Not very big at 5’11, 176 lbs, Lasu is a mean player who likes to play physical and with plenty of energy. He might not always put up points on the board, but he will always give his best and do anything for the team. Lasu was team captain and can be used in most game situations. He’s a good passer, but not a top-notch goalscorer. His hockey sense, technical skills and speed are adequate, but it is his attitude and physical play that makes him stand out.
Lasu will play for Boras next season, Frolunda’s farm team, in Allsvenskan (the Swedish second league).
Chris Carrozzi, G – OHL Mississauga
Mar. 2, 1990, 6’3, 185
The Thrashers are staying ahead of trends by drafting only tall goaltenders the past several years. There have been trials of larger nets in hockey, so it could be coming permanently, and a larger goaltender will cover more area. Carrozzi is the tallest in this entire Thrashers draft class at 6’3.
Carrozzi is big, but has some trouble with lateral movement and glove hand. St. Mike’s was a middling team in 2007-08. Carrozzi finished eighth in the league in GAA at 2.75 and 10th in the league in save percentage with .911.
Carrozzi was one of 12 goaltenders selected to attend the third annual Hockey Canada Program of Excellence (POE) camp. The four-day camp, which was organized by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League, in Calgary in June. He also received a gold medal with Canada’s U-18 team, but did not play in any of the games.
Zach Redmond, D – CCHA Ferris State
Jul. 26, 1988
The oldest pick of the group, Redmond is already 20.
The Thrashers like his skill and vision, and scoring 19 points in 37 games from the backline isn’t bad — especially when it wasn’t certain that he’d be in the top six this season. He finished as the sixth leading scorer on Ferris State as a freshman defenseman.
Another right-handed shot, Redmond was passed over twice in the draft. Prior to Ferris State, he played for the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede.
Redmond was born in Houston, Texas as his father is in the oil and gas industry. But he was raised in Traverse City, Michigan. He’ll be at the upcoming prospects conditioning camp in July.
Jeff Dahlia, Johan Nilsson, Kevin Forbes, Leslie Treff, and Jason Menard contributed to this article.