Thrashers 2010 draft preview

By Kyle West

Top 10 prospects

1. Patrice Cormier, C
2. Carl Klingberg, LW
3. Ivan Vishnevskiy, D
4. Jeremy Morin, RW
5. Arturs Kulda, C
6. Spencer Machacek, RW
7. Eric O’Dell, C
8. Paul Postma D
9. Angelo Esposito, C
10. Daultan Leveille, C

The Atlanta Thrashers hold the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, as well as New Jersey’s first-round pick, 24th overall, acquired in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade.

Team Needs

The Thrashers are starting over. Former top five draft picks Dany Heatley, Kari Lehtonen and Ilya Kovalchuk have all been traded away and the organization is moving forward with a new core of players, under new management. After serving as Atlanta’s only GM, Don Waddell moved up to the President’s chair and Rick Dudley, who was hired by the organization last year, will take over the GM duties. Dudley is known to be an astute judge of talent and will want to make a positive impact in his first draft as GM. Last year’s top pick, Evander Kane, selected fourth overall, had a fine rookie season with the Thrashers scoring 14 goals. The Thrashers could look to land a similar impact player who can step in and play right away, someone like Portland Winterhawks power forward Nino Niederreiter, for example.

The ability to draw fans to the rink is important. Attendance is still among the worst in the league and with only one postseason appearance to show for their efforts, the Thrashers management team is more than aware of the need to renew interest. A winning team is an exciting team and the Thrashers will look to add players to the prospect pool who can help them win more games as soon as possible.

With the eighth overall pick, the Thrashers will likely be looking at several skilled centers to add to the prospect pool.

Organizational Strengths

With the addition of Ivan Vishnevskiy and Johnny Oduya and the emergence of late-round pick Arturs Kulda as a legitimate NHL prospect, the Thrashers are well-stocked on the blue line. Boris Valabik seems to be over his injury problems and Zach Bogosian has shown signs of being able to settle into a top-four position. Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg make for a solid goaltending duo, while Ed Pasquale and Chris Carrozzi are turning pro this year. Carl Klingberg, Patrice Cormier and Spencer Machacek could all compete for an NHL spot in the fall, joining Kane, Bryan Little and Niclas Bergfors in the wing position.

Organizational Weaknesses

Beyond Nik Antropov there is a dropoff at center. Rich Peverley has played over his head in recent seasons and Todd White has given them decent two-way play, but neither is a legitimate top-six centerman. With the regression of Angelo Esposito and Riley Holzapfel, and the lack of progression from Daultan Leveille, there is no one banging on the door either. Eric O’Dell is the closest the Thrashers have to a first line prospect, but he will not be ready for the NHL this year.

Draft Tendencies

During Waddell’s tenure, the Thrashers have seen some busts in the early rounds (Patrik Stefan, Luke Sellars, Alex Bourret, Chad Denny) and some serviceable late-round picks (Garnet Exelby, Tobias Enstrom). His only drafted impact players on the current roster are Little and Pavelec. The trend for the Thrashers under Waddell was toward the CHL in early rounds and toward Europeans in later rounds. Director of Scouting Dan Marr remains on board for Dudley in this draft.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:

No. 8, Vladimir Tarasenko, RW. With Niederreiter taken by Carolina, this was the most NHL-ready player on the board.
No. 24, Nick Bjugstad, C. A surprise to see him drop to 24, has the size and speed teams crave.