Thrashers 2004 draft class season review

By Holly Gunning

Below is a look at the 2004-05 seasons of the Atlanta Thrashers 2004 draft picks.

Boris Valabik, D (10th overall) – OHL Kitchener Rangers

Valabik suffered a concussion in the fall that kept him out of the lineup for an extended time. He was able to return in time for the 2005 World Junior Championships and play for Slovakia.
But even when he was in Kitchener’s line-up, the 6’6 blueliner seemed if anything to regress this season. His poor skating did not improve, he wasn’t handling the puck as well and took bad penalties – minor, non-aggressive ones. Valabik had four points in 43 games and 231 penalty minutes, for a whopping 5.37 penalty minutes per game. In plus/minus, he was even on a generally plus team. He did seem to improve his strength though, easily having his way with players who are themselves over 200 pounds. Kitchener remains alive in the OHL playoffs, facing the top-ranked London Knights.

Grant Lewis, D (40th overall) – NCAA Dartmouth Big Green

Lewis saw his numbers dip slightly this season, finishing second among Dartmouth defensemen with 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 33 games. He missed two games back in November due to a leg injury. While Lewis’ numbers may have dipped a bit, his performance did not. He continues to quarterback the Big Green’s power play along with junior Garrett Overlock, and plays in every type of situation for Dartmouth. The emergence of Overlock along with the play of defensemen such as Ben Lovejoy has afforded Dartmouth not only the luxury of having more offensive contributions from their defensemen, but also has allowed Lewis to be less of a target by opposing players. Lewis’ outstanding performance this season didn’t go unnoticed as he was an honorable mention to the All-Ivy League team.

Scott Lehman, D (76th overall) – OHL Toronto St. Michael’s Majors

Lehman is not an offensive defenseman, but the typical path of NHL defensemen is that they score in juniors, and do so at an increasing rate. Lehman went from .48 points per game last season with the Majors to .37 points per game this season. His penalty minutes were steady at 189, though he played nine fewer games. On the good side, he was +1 on a generally very minus team, but he was surpassed on Sarnia’s depth chart by 2005-eligible Ryan Wilson. He had four points in 10 games in the playoffs before St. Michael’s was eliminated.

Chad Painchaud, RW (106th overall) – OHL Sarnia Sting

Painchaud was traded near the beginning of the season from the Mississauga Ice Dogs to the Sarnia Sting. He was second in scoring for Sarnia, a team that had a rough year. He has good potential, but needs to put his skills to use on a more consistent basis. He uses his 6’1 size well and skates well with the puck. Next season the Sting will be rebuilding, so it will be an opportunity to put up better numbers than his 40 points in 57 games this season. He was –8 with the Sting, but on a very minus team, it isn’t a bad number. He can improve in this area, however, as he can be a bit soft defensively at times.

Juraj Gracik, RW (142nd overall) – WHL Tri-City Americans

Gracik did not have a very smooth transition to North America, moving from Slovakia where he split his time between the junior and senior teams last year. Gracik had only six points in 33 games, four of them goals, for Tri-City before injuring his shoulder in early February and missing the rest of the season. He was away from Tri-Cities for several weeks to play for Slovakia in the 2005 WJCs. He was a respectable –1 on team that was generally minus.

Dan Turple, G (186th overall) – OHL Kitchener Rangers

Turple was traded midseason from the worst team in the league to one of the best. The trade seemed to do him a lot of good, as he played well and put up much better numbers. Turple went from a .873 save percentage with the Oshawa Generals to a .924 save percentage with the Kitchener Rangers and lowered his goals against from 3.71 to 2.36. He was the starter in Kitchener during the regular season, but has lost this spot to 19-year-old Eric Pfligler in the playoffs due to injury. He played in only three games to Pfligler’s 10. Not quick or agile, it’s Turple’s size at 6’5 that he relies on.

Miikka Tuomainen, LW (204th overall) – Finland Mestis League, Tuto

Tuomainen’s numbers (eight points in 42 games) didn’t really improve from last season and that goes for the rest of his game too. His hockey sense isn’t developing fast enough and he needs to make better use of his body. Some explosive strength wouldn’t hurt either. His team is decent on paper, but the players in front of him are nothing too difficult to overthrow. Overall, he’s still where he was last season, although he did make the U20 national team in Five Nations in February once the ’86ers took the reins. A longshot like him can’t afford development this slow.

Mitch Carefoot, C (237th overall) – NCAA Cornell Big Red

Carefoot fulfilled the role of defensive forward quite well for Cornell. He plays the body well, is a hard worker and a superb penalty-killer, helping the team to the best penalty-killing efficiency in the nation. It was going into the post-season where he enjoyed his best offensive outings of the year. Prior to the start of the ECAC playoffs, Carefoot was put on a line with seniors Mike Knoefli (TOR) and Mike Iggulden. The result was one of Cornell’s most productive lines, accounting for 11 points in their final seven games of the season. Carefoot accounted for three of the points (one goal, two assists) himself, including a short-handed tally in Cornell’s loss to Minnesota in the West Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament. Carefoot finished the season with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 31 games. The quick penalty-killer scored two short-handed goals on the season. The Knoepfli-Iggulden-Carefoot trio accounted for eight of Cornell’s nine short-handed goals this season. Carefoot will need to step it up a bit offensively next regular season.

Matt Siddall, RW (270th overall) – NCAA Northern Michigan Wildcats

Siddall will likely never win a scoring title. but he can certainly make a run for the penalty
minutes leader on his team. What he lacks in scoring, he makes up for with his grittiness and physical play. The hard-hitting, tight-checking style that has become one of Northern Michigan’s trademarks is well-suited for a player like Siddall. He had a very good, not spectacular season for NMU. The latter half of the season saw Siddall miss seven games (back in late January and
again for the final three games of the CCHA playoffs) due to injury. Siddall finished his rookie campaign with eight points (four goals, four assists) and 62 PIMs in 33 games.

DJ Powers, Pekka Lampinen, Jason Ahrens, Dan Linn, Glen Jackson, and Sean Keogh contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.