Thrashers 2004 draft evaluation

By Jared Perlman

The 2004 draft was not a good one for the Thrashers.  With nine picks, including the 10th overall, they had plenty to work with, but found very little return.  It was the first draft by newly-promoted Director of Amateur Scouting Dan Marr.

Drafting for need, they used their first three selections on defensemen.  Atlanta then selected five forwards and one goaltender. Four of the nine picks came from the OHLBoris Valabik is the only player from the Thrashers 2004 draft class who can be said to have earned himself a full-time position in the NHL though even he began the year in the AHL and was an injury replacement.  Grant Lewis and Scott Lehman each played one game, for a total of 59 games from the entire class, or an average of just 6.56 NHL games per player.  This ranks among the worst averages in the NHL for the 2004 draft class.

Boris Valabik, D – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
1st Round, 10th overall
Status: NHL Player
57 NHL Games Played

In 2004, the Thrashers drafted Valabik tenth overall, believing that he would provide some necessary toughness and provide a physical presence at the blue line.  This 6’7 240lb defenseman finished the 2003-04 OHL season with 278 penalty minutes, the second most in the league.  With only 16 points in 68 games, the Thrashers knew what they were getting offensively, but Valabik seemed to make up for his limited offensive play by using his size to his advantage and by dishing out punishing hits to make it extremely difficult for opposing players to get around him get to the net.

It took him five years, and improvement in his skating, but in 2008-09 Valabik maintained a starting position in the Thrashers’ lineup.  He has given the team some defensive depth and is becoming a solid shut-down defenseman who provides a physical presence on the ice, racking up 132 penalty minutes and six fighting majors this past NHL season.       

Grant Lewis, D – Dartmouth College (NCAA)

2nd Round, 40th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
1 NHL Game Played

Lewis was drafted out of Dartmouth, where he had just finished his rookie year in 2003-04 with the highest total of points among team defensemen with 25 in only 34 games. That would end up being his best year statistically.

Playing in the ECAC, Lewis didn’t play a lot of games, so his development was slowed. Injury troubles didn’t help in that regard. He finished with a total of 77 in 120 games.

Turning pro, he had a rough rookie season, which again included injuries (two concussions) but a much better sophomore campaign in 2008-09 with 22 points in 54 games (all assists). He played in just one NHL game, but should see more time next year.  All in all, this was a fine pick, though perhaps a bit high.

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

3rd Round, 76th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
1 NHL Game Played

Lehman was probably the biggest reach by Atlanta of the draft class. Not big or strong enough to be effective as a physical defenseman, and not skilled enough to be an offensive one, his junior game failed to translate to the pros.

In junior he led all defensemen on the Majors in 2003-04 in points with 32 in 66 games and led the entire team in penalty minutes with 189.  His stats indicated that he could be a defenseman with a strong two-way game as he finished his final OHL year in 2005-06 with 55 points in 68 games.  But stats only say so much.  Lehman doesn’t have good balance on his skates, and his defensive game suffers as a result.

Lehman definitely improved in his time as a pro, but not nearly enough.  He’s had only 12 points in 90 games and has been minus each season.  In 2008-09 he played his first NHL game as an injury recall, and it’s very likely to be his only one.

Chad Painchaud, RW, Mississauga IceDogs (OHL)
4th Round, 106th Overall
Status: NHL bust
0 NHL Games Played

Painchaud was a very solid OHL forward.  In his draft year, he collected 42 points in 68 games and finished the year with a plus/minus of +23, the highest on his team.  He was ranked 42nd among North American Skaters by Central Scouting going into the draft. But there were some concerns about his consistency around even then.

Painchaud has spent the majority of his pro career in the ECHL while occasionally playing in the AHL. Desire and effort plague the forward, who does possess far more talent than his accomplishments show.

In 2008-09, he was traded to Anaheim along with Brad Larsen and Ken Klee in exchange for Mathieu Schneider and his big salary.  Painchaud finished the season strongly playing on Anaheim’s ECHL farm team, the Bakersfield Condors. He is a restricted free agent this summer.

Juraj Gracik, RW, VTJ Topolcalny (SVK)
5th Round, 142nd Overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

When he was drafted, Gracik had just finished the season in his native Slovakia where collected 38 goals and 20 assists for a total of 58 points in 56 games.  He played the next two seasons in the WHL and was a regular on Slovakia’s World Junior Championship team during this period.  He showed great talent as a goal scoring threat during his junior years.

From his performance in the WHL, it appeared as though Gracik had made a smooth transition to the North American game, but he was not offered a contract and in 2006-07, Gracik returned to Slovakia where he has since remained. 

Due to the lack of IIHF agreement, the Thrashers retain Gracik’s rights, but he is off the radar as a prospect.

Dan Turple, G, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

6th Round, 186th Overall
Status: NHL bust
0 NHL Games Played

The year Turple was drafted, his GAA of 2.78 was 11th best in the OHL and improved each of his following two OHL seasons.  In 2005-06, his GAA of 2.25 was the best in the entire OHL — albeit as an overager — and his future was looking more and more promising.

Turple has two things going for him: size and quickness.  At 6’6 he covers a lot of net, and is quick for his size. These are good tools on which to build, but Turple does not have good puck tracking to go along with them, nor the mental focus.

Turple spent two seasons playing in the ECHL and spent 2008-09 bouncing back and forth between the AHL and ECHL.  He has been a backup goaltender as a pro and was even lent out to the New York Islanders’ ECHL affiliate Utah Grizzlies for two games. His contract is up this summer.

Miikka Tuomainen, LW, TuTo (FIN)

7th Round, 204th Overall
Status: NHL bust
0 NHL Games Played

Tuomainen was drafted as a defensive forward. In 2003-04, he was drafted out of the Finnish league after producing seven points in 30 games.  He also played on Finland’s under-18 national team that same season.

Tuomainen has remained in Finland where he’s had some success, but he does not have the talent level for the NHL.  His skating and puck skills in particular are not good enough.

Mitch Carefoot, C, Cornell University (NCAA)

8th Round, 237th Overall
Status: NHL Bust
0 NHL Games Played

Carefoot was drafted out of Cornell as a defensive-minded forward with seven points in 31 games.  His next three college seasons saw a slight increase in his points per season and he finished college with a total of 45 points in 122 games.

Unsigned after college, Carefoot has been playing in the ECHL with the Phoenix Roadrunners where he has posted 74 points in 142 games over the past two seasons and gathered six fighting majors. 

Matt Siddall, RW, Powell River Kings (BCHL)
9th Round, 270th Overall
Status: NHL Prospect
0 NHL Games Played

Siddall was drafted by the Thrashers after finishing a season in the BCHL where he put up 61 points in 45 games and racked up 216 penalty minutes.  He is an aggressive power forward who uses his 6’1, 205 lbs well.

Siddall played at Don Waddell’s alma mater, Northern Michigan. Signed to an NHL deal, he spent most of 2008-09 in the ECHL with the affilate Gwinnett Gladiators.  When his temper was in check, he played a solid 40 games in the ECHL where he collected 37 points and had 10 fighting majors for a total of 153 penalty minutes.  In the AHL he struggled with only one point in 20 games. He suffered a concussion at the end of last season.

There are no real expectations that he will succeed.

Holly Gunning contributed to this article.