Winnipeg Jets benefitting greatly from Atlanta Thrashers’ 2007 draft class

By Kyle West
Photo: The seventh to last player selected in the 2007 NHL draft, Paul Postma has gradually developed into a solid two-way defenseman capable of playing at the NHL level. (Photo courtesy of NHL)

Though the Atlanta Thrashers made only four selections in the 2007 draft, they managed to provide three very good prospects for the Winnipeg Jets.

Having traded away their 2007 first, second- and fifth-round picks earlier in the year to acquire Keith Tkachuk and Pascal Dupuis for their one and only playoff appearance in franchise history, Thrashers’ management dealt another third rounder on draft day to Pittsburgh (Robert Bortuzzo) for center Chris Thorburn.

Spencer Machacek, RW, Vancouver Giants (WHL) – 3rd round, 67th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games: 12

Machacek has been as consistent as they come throughout his career. A high-energy grinder who scores a lot of dirty goals, the big winger never takes a shift off and that reliable effort has made him a coaching favorite at every level.

A native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Machacek was playing with the Brooks Bandits in the Tier 2 AJHL in 2004-05 but earned a spot on Gilbert Brule’s wing for the Memorial Cup in 2006 after a 23 goal rookie season with the Giants. In his draft year the Lethbridge native was slowed by a concussion yet still tallied 21 goals and 24 assists in 63 games. Machacek then stayed on scouts radars with 20 points in 22 playoff games as the Vancouver Giants famously celebrated a Memorial Cup championship on home ice.

Machacek finished his junior career as the Giants captain and top scorer with 33 goals and 78 points in 70 games. Turning pro that summer, Machacek is now in pace for his fourth straight 20+ goal season in the AHL. Given a 10 game trial in Atlanta last year, he failed to seize the opportunity and has been passed over on the depth chart as far as callups to the Jets’ roster. The big winger gives an honest effort and is appreciated by teammates and coaches alike. However, his ability to make an impact at the NHL level is increasingly in doubt. Going forward Machacek remains a real prospect, albeit with limited upside.

Niklas Lucenius, C, Tappara (Fin Jr.) – 4th round, 115th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

Having flown over with his parents to be at the draft, Lucenius gave every indication at the time of coming over to North America to pursue his pro hockey goals. That move has yet to materialize however and the skilled playmaker recently signed on to play in the KHL with Dynamo Riga for the next few seasons.

A top line player with the Tappara junior team in 2007, Lucenius had played a starring role for the Finland U-18 team earlier in the year, playing first line minutes and showing flashes of strength and jam to go with his skill. The son of a standout goaltender, Lucenius was also a teammate of James Van Riemsdyk (PHI) when he was an exchange student in a Philadelphia suburb a few years prior to the draft.

John Albert, C, USNTDP – 6th round, 175th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games: 0

While not quite a hometown hero in Columbus, Albert had a shorter trip than most prospects to attend the draft. The Thrashers first ever selection from the USNTDP hails from the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Concord Township. The small and quick pivot had scored nearly half of his 33 points in 47 games against NCAA opponents and the fact he was going to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes following the draft was seen as a plus at the time.

Five years later, Albert is a rookie in the AHL and seems to have put his four years in college to good use. Listed at 5’9 on his draft day profile, Albert has sprouted up to 5’11 and added some much needed bulk. Still as swift and elusive as ever, he benefitted from playing in all situations for the Buckeyes and his service as team captain in his overclass years formed his strong character.

Although not tearing up the AHL by any stretch, Albert has served the IceCaps well as a penalty killer and checking line center and his four goals and 12 points in 39 games represents good value. Although still a long-shot to make the NHL, Albert will not fall short due to lack of effort.

Paul Postma, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – 7th round, 205th Overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 4

The last player selected by the Thrashers in 2007 may turn out to be the most benefit to the Jets. A lanky project player, Postma was listed as 6’3 and 170 lbs on his draft day in 2007 and his five goals and 24 points with a minus-19 rating in 70 WHL games hardly set any alarms off.

Fast-forward two years though and the Red Deer, Alberta native was a plus-67 for the Calgary Hitmen in a year where he scored an astounding 23 goals and 84 points in 70 games. Postma continued to shoot the lights out after turning pro, firing home 15 goals as an AHL rookie with the Chicago Wolves and this year is the second from top scorer on the IceCaps with 29 points in 35 games.

A proven triggerman from the blue line, Postma has yet to crack the NHL regularly due to concerns about his defensive zone play. Coachable and attentive, Postma continues to work hard on becoming a good all-round defender. Given his progress this year and his position on the Jets’ depth chart, the former seventh rounder may force a trade in order to make room for him in the big leagues.