Thrashers draft review

By Holly Gunning

The Thrashers drafted a total of nine players in the 2003 Entry Draft: four defensemen, five forwards, and no goalies. In the past four drafts, the team had taken only two players from the QMJHL, but this year took two players from the Q, both in the fourth round. Only two European players were drafted, Denis Loginov and Tobias Enstrom, neither of them overaged. Enstrom was the first Swedish player the Thrashers have ever drafted. Three of the draftees were American: Jim Sharrow, Michael Vanelli and Brett Sterling.

Player Capsules

Braydon Coburn, D

1st round, 8th overall
6’5” 205
Portland (WHL)

There was no dispute going into the draft that the Thrashers needed to address defense, since they consistently give up a high number of goals against. The team was pleasantly surprised to find Coburn available when they picked in the no. 8 slot.

“We didn’t think we were getting Coburn yesterday,” Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell said of the pick. “We had him third on our list and we were very pleased to be getting him eighth.”

Coburn is mostly a stay at home defenseman, but he can make good passes to start the offense. He’s a good skater, and uses his size to his advantage. Coburn was the 2001-02 WHL rookie of the year, won a gold medal at the World U-18 Championships and was invited to Team Canada’s Final Evaluation Camp for 2003 World Junior Championships. He was ranked 6th on the final CSB North American rankings.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2000-01Portland (WHL)
2
1
1
2
0
2001-02Portland (WHL)
68
4
33
37
100
2002-03Portland (WHL)
53
3
16
19
147

The Thrashers believe Coburn is reasonably close to making the jump to the NHL. He will be given the opportunity to make the Thrashers roster in training camp, but if he does not, he will return to Portland for another year.

Projection: Top two defenseman

Jimmy Sharrow, D

4th round, 110th overall
6’2.5”, 170
Halifax (QMJHL)

Sharrow is a highly skilled defenseman. His greatest asset is his speed. He will rush the puck, distributes the puck well on the power play, and has good hockey sense. Sharrow was fifth in points among rookie defensemen in the QMJHL in 2002-03. His team, the Halifax Mooseheads played in the QMJHL championship series in 2003. Sharrow was rated 64th among North American skaters by the CSB final rankings.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2002-03Halifax (QMJHL)
70
2
14
16
54

Waddell said of Sharrow that he’s a “Skill guy who can score goals.” He played a little at forward for the Mooseheads in the playoffs, but Waddell maintains “We drafted him as a defenseman and we look at him as a defenseman.”

Sharrow needs to add weight to make it professionally, he weighs only 170 right now. Although his defensive positioning has improved a lot in the past year, he can stand to work on it more before turning pro. Added weight will improve the physical side of his game as well. He should see a lot more icetime with the Mooseheads in 2003-04, since the club had many veteran players who will be moving on.

Projection: Two-way defenseman

Guillaume Desbiens, RW

4th round, 116th overall
6’2”, 190
Rouyn Noranda (QMJHL)

Desbiens, is a physical forward who hits hard and is more than willing to drop the gloves. He has decent hands and is hard to move from the front of the net. He’s also good defensively and plays on the PK unit. Desbiens normally plays right wing, but has no strong preference. He was ranked 54th among North American skaters by the CSB.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2001-02Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
65
14
10
24
115
2002-03Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
64
15
18
33
233

Waddell said of Desbiens, “Gritty, tough kid. Real strong on the wall and in the corners. Plays hard, not just a fighter. He can play some. You have to be able to. You can’t just be a scrapper.” He said of Sharrow and Desbiens, “Both those guys we had in our top 90. When you get them in the fourth round, you feel like you’ve done your homework and you feel good about taking them.”

Desbiens can stand to work on his speed and stickhandling before turning pro. He will return to Rouyn Noranda in the fall.

Projection: 4th line checker

Michael Vannelli, D

4th round, 136th overall
6’2”, 190
Sioux Falls (USHL)

Vannelli played 2002-03 in Tier I juniors for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States Hockey League. He led all USHL defensemen in scoring and was a member of the All-USHL First Team in 2002-03. Vannelli has an offensive upside, is a quick skater and good passer. He has soft hands and sees the ice well.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2002-03Sioux Falls (USHL)
60
13
34
47
88

Waddell on Vanelli: “Not overly skilled but good vision. Good feel for the game.”

Vanelli will follow in his father’s footsteps and attend the University of Minnesota in the fall. He could stand to put on some weight at 6’2” 190.

Projection: 5th or 6th defenseman

Brett Sterling, LW

5th round, 145th overall
5’6.5”, 163
Colorado College (WCHA)

The selection of Sterling, a pure goal scorer, helped the Thrashers address their lack of depth up front. A teammate of Thrashers prospect Colin Stuart at Colorado College, Sterling led all WCHA rookies in goals and goals per game. He plays on the powerplay, stationed in front of the net for rebounds.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2000-01USA U-17
60
36
26
62
2001-02USA U-18
50
29
19
48
2002-03Colorado College (WCHA)
30
22
10
32
26

In 2001-02 Sterling led the USA National Under-18 team in goals with 29, and helped the team to its first ever gold at the World Championships. He also led the team in goals in the tournament. Sterling was not ranked by Central Scouting. The big knock on Sterling is his size, listed at only 5’6.5”.

“Scores big goals, plays way bigger than his size,” Waddell pointed out about Sterling. “He competes.”

Like most goal-scorers, Sterling will need to round out his defensive game to make it in the NHL. He will return to Colorado College in the fall for his sophomore season.

Projection: 2nd line winger

Mike Hamilton, F

6th round, 175th overall
6’1”, 198
Merritt (BCHL)

Mike Hamilton played Tier II juniors for the Merritt Centennials in the British Columbia Hockey League. He was named to the BCHL second all-star team. Hamilton was the oldest player drafted by the Thrashers, at 20 years old. Was not ranked by Central Scouting.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2002-03Merritt (BCHL)
56
42
51
93
133

Hamilton will attend the University of Maine in the fall. University of Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said of Hamilton “I am excited about Mike Hamilton. He is a well-rounded hockey player. He’s fast, strong with a scoring touch, and he is a real leader.”

Projection: 3rd liner

Denis Loginov, C

7th round, 203rd overall
6’1”, 211
Kazan (Russia)

Loginov played juniors in for Kazan in 2002-03, and also for the Russian U-18 team. He has good size for such a young guy at 211 lbs.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2002-03Ak Bars Kazan 2 (Russia)
Molot Prikamye (Super League)
1
0
0
0
0
Team Russia ’85 (5 Nations Tourney)
4
0
0
0
0
Team Russia (U18 WJC)
6
1
0
1
4

Waddell said of Loginov, “Very skilled. A guy with great hands. He will be competing for the elite team this year. He won’t be ready for a couple years.”

Projection: 3rd line, two-way player

Tobias Enstrom, D

8th round, 239th overall
5’9”, 169
Modo (Sweden)

The consensus among many draft observers is that the Thrashers got a steal on the selection of Enstrom, a highly skilled defenseman who dropped because of his size. His credentials are impressive. He won the Rookie of the Year award in the Swedish Elite League. He played with the Swedish Under 20 team. He’s a good skating offensive defenseman with good passing ability, vision and shot.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
1999-00MoDo J-18
3
0
0
0
0
2000-01MoDo J-20
1
0
0
0
0
MoDo J-18
16
7
6
13
18
2001-02MoDo J-20
23
2
8
10
12
Team Sweden U-18
8
2
1
3
6
2002-03MoDo (SEL)
42
1
5
6
16
MoDo J-20
7
4
6
10
31
Team Sweden U-20
6
1
1
2
4

Waddell said of Enstrom, “Skill guy, very offensive. Great skater. Smaller guy but great skill level. He played in the Under 20, and in the Elite league all year which as an 18-year-old is outstanding.”

Regarding the knock on him being his size, Waddell commented that “Small guys are going to play if they’re not soft.” Enstrom will remain with MoDo for the 2002-03 season and see increased icetime. He will also play for the Swedish Junior Team, and possibly even the Swedish National Team.

Projection: Powerplay quarterback and top four defenseman

Rylan Kaip, C

9th round, 269th overall
6’0”, 175
Notre Dame (SJHL)

Center Rylan Kaip has played the last three years in Tier II juniors for the Notre Dame Hounds in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He was not ranked by Central Scouting.

Year
Club
GP
G
A
Pts
PIM
2002-03Notre Dame (SJHL)
57
20
36
56
164

Kaip is eligible to play college hockey next fall but is uncommitted to a school and will likely stay with Notre Dame again next year according to the Thrashers.

Projection: 3rd liner, depth player

Notes

General Manager Don Waddell expressed satisfaction with the team’s draft as it was wrapping up. “The good thing about this draft was the depth of it. We got calls to trade our 8th and 9th round picks, but there were still guys on our list that we wanted.”

Not only did the team add depth for the future, but they also picked up defenseman Ivan Majesky in a trade with the Florida Panthers, a player who will make an impact right away.

“We came in with the goal of getting a defenseman and we got someone who will play in our top four (Majesky),” Waddell said. “We had the second round pick that we dangled out there to a lot of teams, and we see him as the best player that came available.”

Waddell also reiterated his preference for players either in, or entering the NCAA. “You leave them there for one, two, three, four years to develop. Take Baby for example. He was drafted from Cornell three years ago and now he’s graduating and we think he’ll be a player.”

The team has been talking to Baby regarding a contract, but has not yet reached agreement. It has also been talking to Tommi Santala, who must decide whether or not he wants to make the jump to North America this year. Two other 1999 draftees, Mark and Matt McRae, will be released.

On how the organization stands in general, Waddell was satisfied. “Overall we’re pretty pleased with the way the depth chart is. Last night we went through a chart of all the players on our reserve list. We figured out if there was any place where we wanted to add. For example we added this skill defenseman from Sweden. He’s not big but he can play.”

Several of the 2003 draftees will likely be attending the upcoming Thrashers prospect camp, including Coburn, Sharrow and Desbiens. The camp will be held July 10th – 19th at the Duluth IceForum in suburban Atlanta.

Jason Shaner contributed to this report.