The Atlanta Thrashers were fortunate to be selecting fourth overall in this year’s deep NHL draft. The team was most in need of a top-line scorer (preferably a centerman), some left wing depth and defensive defensemen. Out of their total of nine picks, they selected seven Canadians, one American and one Swede. Prior to the draft, Atlanta’s GM Don Waddell expressed concern that his team lacked size and ended up selecting no players below 6’0. Although the Thrashers had traded away their third-round pick, they were able to obtain an extra second, fourth and seventh pick in the draft.
In the end, Atlanta selected three centers, three left wingers, two defensemen and one goalie.
With the fourth overall selection in the 2009 draft, the Thrashers didn’t pull any surprises by selecting all-star Vancouverite Evander Kane.
“I’m going to give myself a really good opportunity to make that team…It’s a real special honor,” said Kane at the draft. Potentially Ilya Kovalchuk’s set-up man on Atlanta’s first line, Kane finished the 2008-09 WHL season with 96 points (48 goals, 48 assists) in 61 games. He plays the game with an edge and could be that first-line center that Atlanta has been looking for since the departure of Marc Savard in 2006. Kane played for Team Canada’s 2009 gold-medal-winning world junior team where he registered six points (two goals, four assists) in six games.
Waddell made it clear that he was looking for a player who would make an immediate impact on the ice next season, so Kane was a logical first round choice for Atlanta since he already possesses enough all-around talent to make next year’s starting roster. The Thrashers could use his energy, grit, determination and eagerness to win in their lineup.
Carl Klingberg, LW — Frolunda Jr. (SWE)
2nd round, 34th overall
Height: 6’3, Weight: 205lbs
There were an abundance of elite Swedish players in this year’s draft and Atlanta was able to take advantage of that in the second round with the selection of Klingberg. Ranked the seventh European skater by Central Scouting, Klingberg provides some of that size and physical style of play that the Thrashers were looking for. He recorded 26 points (13 goals and 13 assists) in 35 games for Frolunda Jr. and also represented Sweden in the Under-18 World Championships where he recorded four points (two goals, two assists) in six games.
“I like to win,” said Klingberg at the draft, who will help the lack of depth at left wing. His size makes it difficult for opponents to knock him off the puck and his goal-scoring abilities make him an offensive threat every time he steps onto the ice.
Jeremy Morin, C — USA U-18 NTDP
2nd round, 45th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 189lbs
This American-born center is known for his hard shot, quick release, deadly accuracy and his seemingly natural goal-scoring ability. He has twice lead his team in scoring on the Under-18 U.S. National Team including this past season where he had 59 points (33 goals and 26 assists) in 55 games. However, Morin needs improvement in his skating, playmaking and in his general play when he is not in possession of the puck because he is prone to making careless positional errors.
Morin has been improving his all-around game each season, particularly his skating, and could potentially be a major NHL goal scoring threat if he continues to do so.
Edward Pasquale, G — Saginaw (OHL)
4th round, 117th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 218lbs
Prior to the draft, Pasquale was ranked third among North American Goaltender draftees by NHL Central Scouting. Playing what he called a similar style to Chicago’s Cristobal Huet, Pasquale finished the 2008-09 OHL season with 32 wins and a GAA of 3.02. He uses his size well to cover the net and has quick foot speed. He was ranked first by NHL Central Scouting midway through the season but sunk to third as his performance on the ice declined.
Pasquale’s slip to the fourth round in the draft is likely related to this season’s poor post-season performance where he allowed 34 goals in only eight games for a GAA of 3.85. His regular-season stats began to slip as well in the later half of the year, beginning at OHL All Star Classic in February where he allowed 11 goals. Nevertheless Pasquale has shown promise of becoming a starting goaltender in the NHL even if this year’s struggles have temporarily hampered his progression.
Ben Chiarot, D — Guelph (OHL)
4th round, 120th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 211lbs
Chiarot is a big, physical defenseman who likes to “rough it up once in a while” he said at the draft. He can stop opponents in their tracks, dish out punishing hits, drop his gloves and occasionally even set up goals. In 2008-09, he put up 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 67 games, as well as 111 penalty minutes. His +11 was the highest among defenders on his OHL team.
Although Chiarot showed nothing out of the ordinary during the regular season, he shined in the playoffs where he managed to put up nearly a point a game (three assists in four games).
Cody Sol, D — Saginaw (OHL)
5th round, 125th overall
Height: 6’4, Weight: 215lbs
Sol is a large, aggressive defensive defenseman. He led the Saginaw Spirit this past season in penalty minutes (128) and fights (10). Scouts salivated at Sol’s play as he used his size and physical nature to shut-down opponents with ease. Sol has very limited offensive abilities, scoring only one goal and six assists for a total of seven points in 66 games in 2008-09.
Sol is a nasty, physical player who is always eager to dish out big hits or drop his gloves and pummel opponents.
Jimmy Bubnick, C — Kamloops (WHL)
6th round, 155th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 194lbs
Bubnick had a successful WHL season in 2008-09, putting up 25 goals and 32 assists for a total of 57 points in 72 games, more than doubling his goal and point total from the previous season.
Bubnick plays a solid, physical type of game and is responsible defensively.
Levko Koper, LW — Spokane (WHL)
7th round, 185th overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 180lbs
2008-09 was a breakout year for Koper, who doubled his goal and point totals from last season, putting up 23 goals and 59 points in 71 games during the regular season and 10 points during a 12-game playoff run.
Koper is becoming an all-around solid hockey player who can skate, score, hit and fight. Although he was the smallest player drafted by the Thrashers this year, he plays larger than his size and doesn’t get intimidated on the ice.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW — Waterloo (USHL)
7th round, 203rd overall
Height: 6’3, Weight: 198lbs
Trying to appeal more to their city demographic, Jordan Samuels-Thomas is the second player of African descent selected by the Thrashers in this year’s draft after Kane. Playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, Thomas finished first in team scoring with 32 goals in 59 games and second in overall points with 54. He was passed over in the 2008 draft, but the Thrashers, not wanting to pass up the opportunity this year to bulk up on size, selected him with their final pick.
Samuels-Thomas is regarded as a power forward and utilizes his size and strength to his advantage to irritate opponents. He can skate and he can score but it will be difficult for him to raise these abilities to an NHL level of play.