Laura might be back for the Blues as well, but in the mean time, we asked her to pinch hit for the Atlanta Thrashers (another team she covers on her blog). We'd say that she ended up hitting for the cycle, but we're too sophisticated for such a lousy pun. Of course.
ANYWAY, Wazzupwitchu is a great source for Blues, Thrashers and NHL related material so make sure to bookmark it and check it every day. Thanks, Laura!
1. Who would you guess will end up being the No. 4 pick for the Thrashers? What are the chances that the Thrashers will keep the pick?
I'm going to be completely original and go with Evander Kane. Wait... what? Everyone has us picking him? Hm. Poo. Honestly, he's the best choice at what will be that position. He's either a center or a winger depending on the situation, and the Thrashers could benefit from either a center to go with Kovalchuk (sorry, The Todd) or some secondary scoring on the 2nd line. Kane could work either place.
Current estimates are putting him between one and 3 years off as far as being in the big leagues, which of course is seen by some as a big deal for the Thrash, but there is something called free-agency. And there is someone else called Angelo Esposito who will be trying to make the team *really* hard at prospect camp. He has a label to shed of being a bust.
The Thrashers are about 110% likely to keep that pick. I don't know of anyone beneath him that we would go for who would be a quick fix for the team. We have depth. We need something a little sooner than 5 years down the line.
2. Is there a chance that Atlanta might try to draft an offensive talent to appease Ilya Kovalchuk enough to stay in Thrasher-land? Could their pick have any effect on Kovalchuk's decision to stay in (or leave) Atlanta?
Oh, absolutely. Last season we REALLY needed defense, and we got that plus more in Zach Bogosian. Waddell knows what he needs to do. He's not horribly challenged. He's not Simple Jack. He'll go for the strongest offensive power he can not only to help Kovy and make him want to re-sign more, but also for the team. A lot of Kovy's decision has to do with the progress that the team makes during the season, and a good offensive talent to go along with him would help.
3. Describe some of your favorite Thrashers draft memories. Is there a pick that stands out as the best one they've made? What, if any, steals come to mind?
No, wait... oh. Good picks, not picks out of necessity... right. Of course, you have to love the Red Wings like steal that DW made in Tobias Enstrom. 239th overall, and he's our top-paring franchise defenseman. Fantastic puck handler, good passing sense, booming shot from the point... he's been reserved playing with Nic Havelid, who he learned a lot of defensive responsibility from. Since the trade of Havelid to Jersey for Anssi Salmela, Enstrom has opened up tremendously. Part of this is being paired with fellow offensive threat Bogosian. The first game together they were unsure... and then never looked back. Our top defensive pairing of Bogisian-Enstrom is a one-two punch of, dare I say it, Don Waddell genius. I guess DW learned something from the Red Wings after all.
Oops ... wrong Tobias.
Bryan Little as well was also a good snag. Yeah, he wasn't buried down in the draft (we took him 12th), but did ANYONE expect him to have the season that he had last year? Absolutely unreal. Also a random pick because people give him grief about being a first rounder is Jim Slater. Atlanta's Captain Planet emissary is a very solid 4th line center who is focused, gritty, thinks he can fight, and can occasionally chip in a nasty goal. Everyone sees the Crosby goal that he scored from his butt against us in Philips. Slater scored one the exact same way but more impressively later on that same game. YouTube search "Jimmy scores from his butt." I dare you.
Spencer Machacek was also a good pick, and I'll never complain about Kulda.
4. On the other end of the fence, describe some of the lowest moments for the Thrashers. Which decisions stick out as some of their worst in the draft? Are there any bad choices (and missed opportunities) that hurt especially bad?
I would consider selling the farm in draft picks to the Blues for Walt a bad move, but I'm a Blues fan and ergo I'm cool with it. Valabik was probably drafted too high, but he's a project and he has a valid role on this team that he just needs to grow into. Bourret was waaaaay too high. Oshie would have been a better pick (but again, I'm cool with the Thrashers not picking him for an obvious reason), as would have been Tukka Rask but apparently The Don wanted Pavelec which is about 6 of one, half of another.
Honestly, and I'm going to get flamed by some, but I think that we picked our Fragile Finn Kari Lehtonen a little too high. I love him. I do. He's a great goaltender, or he will be. But he is, in retrospect, too inconsistent and too unable to play a whole season. If you look at the 2002 draft, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet of talent. Bouwmeester. Semin. Yes, we needed a goalie. But look at who was drafted by Carolina? Mr. Conn Smythe himself, Cam Ward. CAM WARD.
I do thank God every day that DW didn't draft Hannu "The Human Sieve!" Toivonnen, so yes, Kari's a better choice. My opinion is totally based on hindsight, and that's 20/20 (as opposed to my eyesight, which is so bad I can light things on fire with my glasses and the sun). Would I rather have Ward over Kari? Absolutely. Am I glad that we at least had a strong goalie prospect who turned into the occasionally brilliant goalie we have now? Yes.
Believe it or not, I don't consider Stefan a bad pick. Yeah, he was a bust, but we were the expansion franchise, and we needed someone who could play NOW. He was about the only choice.
Soapbox Time Feel free to add whatever else you'd like about the Thrashers and the NHL draft. How do you feel about the future of the franchise?
The future of the franchise, basically based upon the turnaround at the end of last season, is bright. We're one of the teams pushing an offensively minded youth movement. John Anderson is a proven winner, and so many of our young guys played for him on the Wolves and know the flow. The youth is working in places like Chicago and St. Louis, and is coming along pretty well with the Kings. I have no doubt in my mind, that with young guys like Bogosian, Little, Enstrom, Salmela, Armstrong, and the like, that we won't be a contender here shortly. Maybe not next season, but there is no way that you can look at the team on paper and not be impressed. Let's see what Free Agency (or as I call it Hockey Hanukkah to the trade deadline's Christmas) has to bring.