Thrashers 2005 draft evaluation

By Kyle West

Having drafted Boris Valabik too high in 2004, the Thrashers learned from their mistake and traded down from their eighth overall position in 2005 twice, acquiring three more picks. Five years later, that proved to be a good strategy as Ondrej Pavelec was a bonus pick, but not much else was found. With only one NHL player produced from that crop, and the remaining prospects marginal at best, the 2005 draft year was not a great one for the Thrashers. In particular, the failure of first rounder Alex Bourret was especially disappointing, although they did manage to trade him for NHL third-liner Pascal Dupuis.

Alex Bourret, RW – Lewiston (QMJHL) – 1st round, 16th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Thrashers traded down twice in the first round, dealing the eighth overall pick twice to acquire three more picks in the later rounds. At the time, Thrashers GM Don Waddell joked that he had “hit the jackpot” as Bourret was the player sixth on his overall list and he had gambled on him being available later in the draft. Bourret had just led the Lewiston Maineiacs into the playoffs and had an explosive offensive outburst with 31 goals and 86 points in 65 games. A short and stocky winger, Bourret was a big hitter who liked to agitate, qualities that made him a fan favorite in Lewiston. After making the pick in 2005, Waddell commented that he was impressed with Bourret’s determination and will to succeed, commenting that Bourret had quit school because “he just knew he was going to be a hockey player.”

Bourret was traded to Shawinigan the following year, a move which he requested in order to be closer to his Drummondville home, and had a dominant year with 44 goals and 114 points in 67 games. He turned pro in time for the 2006-07 season, but after just 11 goals in 45 games was dealt to the NY Rangers for Pascal Dupuis. After posting declining numbers for another AHL season he was traded to Phoenix. Released in 2009, Bourret played in the ECHL this season for the Las Vegas Wranglers, scoring 18 times in 36 games. With stints in the Czech league and even a few games for Thetford Mines in the rough and ready LNAH, Bourret has become a journeyman hockey player at the tender age of 24. No word on his plans to go back to school.

Normand Poisson, who scouted the Quebec league for the Thrashers during this time, has been let go.

Ondrej Pavelec, G – Kladno Jr (Czech Jr) – 2nd round, 41st overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 61

At the time of the 2005 entry draft, the Thrashers felt secure in goal with Kari Lehtonen as the starter, their second overall pick from 2002. However with the extra second round picks acquired from trading down in the first, they decided to grab Pavelec. A lean and athletic goalie he had made some promising starts in international play for the Czech Republic and it was a bit of a surprise to see him still available for selection in the second. Soon after being drafted he was selected by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL in the CHL Import Draft. On arriving in North America, Pavelec soon showed his quality with sensational performances, winning the Jacques Plante trophy for the best GAA in the “Q” two years in a row. He then backstopped the Chicago Wolves to the AHL championship in his first pro season in 2008, turning up the heat on Lehtonen and forcing the Thrashers to take notice that he was ready to take on the No. 1 job in Atlanta.

Going into 2010-11, Pavelec is the starting goaltender for the Thrashers and Lehtonen has been traded to the Dallas Stars. In 2009-10 Pavelec played in 42 games with Atlanta, posting a solid 3.29 GAA and .906 save percentage. Vocal and assertive on the ice, Pavelec was outspoken about demanding more playing time and there were rumors swirling about a possible move to the KHL. Whether it was a ploy by his agent to pressure the Thrashers into making a decision or not, Pavelec is now the No. 1 goaltender in Atlanta and the pressure is now on him to make the most of it.

Chad Denny, D – Lewiston (QMJHL) – 2nd round, 49th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Thrashers claimed Bourret’s Lewiston teammate Denny with the second of their second-round picks. Denny started his draft season under the radar but his big hits and heavy shot caught the attention of scouts. He thrived in the Maineiacs run and gun system, playing two more years in Lewiston and posting some impressive numbers. He scored 19 goals in 62 games the after being drafted and then upped his points total to 65 in 59 games in his final year of junior. However, his decision-making and hockey sense was often called into question as he took himself out of position to make hits and pinched at the wrong times to try and get a shot away.

After turning pro in 2007, he was assigned to the AHL but soon dropped down to the ECHL for the rest of the season. Drafted at a robust 210 lbs, Denny was advised to slim down and work on his foot speed, neither of which he was able to improve. His defensive liabilities limited his claim to a regular spot at the AHL level and he played full time with the Gwinnett Gladiators in the ECHL. He scores fairly regularly for a defenseman, however he is no longer a legitimate NHL prospect.

Andrew Kozek, F – South Surrey (BCHL) – 2nd round, 53rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

With their third trip to the podium in the second round, the Thrashers called the name of Andrew Kozek from the BCHL. Kozek had just had a massive scoring year with 48 goals and 97 points in 60 games with the South Surrey Eagles. Heavily recruited by several schools, Kozek opted for the University of North Dakota where he played the next four seasons. His scoring touch didn’t entirely desert him in the NCAA, but it was not until his junior year that Kozek began to score with some regularity, putting up 18 goals in 42 games. An injury in his senior year saw his goals total dip back down to eight in 32 games, although he added 12 assists. He signed an entry-level contract with Atlanta after finishing school and joined the Chicago Wolves for the AHL playoffs, notching a pair of goals in five games.

His first full professional season has been disappointing, albeit hampered by a shoulder injury. Playing in 69 games with the Wolves, Kozek scored just 12 times. Concerns over his lack of strength along the boards and the slowness of his skating stride are being raised, however, his shot has great velocity and he has shown a willingness to work hard. Still relatively small for an NHL winger at 5’11 and 185 lbs, Kozek will need a big season to next year to stay in the prospect ranks.

Jordan LaVallee, LW – Quebec (QMJHL) – 4th round, 116th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games: 4

This big winger from Oregon was passed over in 2004, despite a solid rookie season. In 2005, after not having any picks in the third round, Atlanta felt they nabbed a good one in LaVallee.
“He’s a big kid who had 40 goals,” said Waddell at the time, “this could be the steal for us in this draft.”

An amiable sort off the ice, LaVallee led his team in hits two years in a row but after being drafted, that physical style took a toll and he played only 37 games due to injury. Signed to an entry-level contract in 2006, his first two seasons with Chicago in the AHL showed plenty of promise as he scored 20 goals in 76 games in 2007-08 and chipped in three goals in 24 playoff games as the Wolves won the AHL title. He was also called up for a two-game stint with Atlanta and scored his first NHL goal.

Returned to the AHL out of camp in 2008, LaVallee’s production dipped to 30 points in 64 games and his plus/minus dropped to a -14. Weighing in at 225 lbs and focusing on the physical side of the game, his progress stagnated. When he failed to make the team out of camp in 2009, the Thrashers dealt him to the Columbus Blue Jackets for future considerations. His most recent season with Syracuse of the AHL was disappointing with just 10 goals in 78 games. He remains a prospect, however, hopes of him becoming a power forward in the NHL have been shown to be just draft-day optimism.

Tomas Pospisil, RW – Trinec Jr (Czech Jr) – 5th round, 135th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After the selection of Pavelec in the second, the Thrashers selected his countryman Pospisil in the fifth round. This gifted winger dropped to the fifth round despite leading his Czech junior team in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. He would come over to the OHL in 2006 and played alongside Steven Stamkos, the first overall selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft, for the Sarnia Sting. His numbers were decent, as he finished the 2006-07 season with 29 goals and 67 points in 55 games, but his hesitant play on the perimeter of the prime goal-scoring areas held him back from producing as a player with his talent should.

Signed to a pro contract in 2007, Pospisil played the majority of his games in the ECHL, scoring just once in nearly 40 AHL games. Now back in his native country, he continues to post modest numbers in the Czech Extraleague. Once considered one of the most talented players of his generation, Pospisil is notorious for getting extremely nervous before games. A very smooth puckhandler with excellent vision, his progress was held back by hesitancy and tentative play.

Andrei Zubarev, D – UFA-2 (Russia-3) – 6th round, 187th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games: 0

The captain of the Russian Under-18 team in 2005, Zubarev was available in the sixth round due to NHL teams being especially wary of drafting players from Russia. After being drafted, Zubarev solidified a spot on the blueline for KHL team AK Bars and was a key player for Russia’s 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championship entries. A solid defensive player with a good positional game, he has added some offense to his repertoire in recent years. In the 2009-10 season, playing in the KHL with Mytishchi Atlant, he scored seven goals in 55 games.

Zubarev has expressed a desire to play in the NHL, but twice opted to stay in his home country when the window to come over was open. Now, with several players ahead of him on the depth chart, he may have missed his chance to play with the Thrashers.

Myles Stoesz, D – Spokane (WHL) – 7th round, 207th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

With their final selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Thrashers went for toughness, drafting Spokane Chiefs enforcer Stoesz. One of the toughest players in the WHL, the toughest of the three CHL leagues, Stoesz spent three more years in the “Dub” before turning pro. Converted to a winger, he racked up nearly 300 minutes in penalties his first season in the ECHL. Traded to the New Jersey Devils with Niclas Havelid, he has a regular spot with the Lowell Devils of the AHL. Strong on his skates, he chooses his moments to drop the gloves and doesn’t hurt his team with minor penalties. He looks set for a career in the minor leagues.