The NHL Draft is a mix of tension and emotion. If you're a player it resembles a graduation ceremony--your family is there, you wait for name to be called and walk down to the stage--except that you get a jersey instead of a diploma. For the team General Managers it is 30 player game of poker where everyone is trying to bluff and exploit the weak guy at the table. For the scouts it might resemble a school age crush--they spend many hours falling in love with a player--will they get that player or will he end up in the arms of a rival organization?
By Saturday afternoon all that tension ended after the final pick was called out. GMs start to head off the floor of the arena to celebrate and take stock. Don Waddell was kind enough to take some time to answer questions. The mood was very upbeat in the Thrashers camp and Waddell explains why.
Bird Watchers Anonymous: It looks like you were able to get some good value late?
Don Waddell: We had a lot of picks and we feel VERY good about some of these guys.
BWA: What can you tell us about Carl Klingberg?
DW We were really happy to get him. We had him rated in the first round. We all know the player very well. He played in all the international tournaments. He’s a power forward, he’s a big kid. We think he’s going to be a player [in the NHL]. He’s going to stay in Sweden for a few years away, but we’re really excited adding him.
BWA: Some people have been critical of Jeremy Morin’s skating, is that a concern for the organization?
DW: He is going to Kitchener Rangers [in the OHL] next year and we think that will help him. He’s a goal scorer. He is one of the natural goal scores in this draft. We need some finishers, that’s for sure.
BWA: You have been active with USA hockey and drafted college players in the past, did you consider trading up to pick [University of Minnesota's] Schroeder when he slipped down lower in the first round?
DW: No. It is so tough to trade up in the first because you have to pay an extreme price. Having those two picks in the second round we knew we would get THREE good players. So rather than trade up and land have just two players, we could wait and end up with three guys and it worked out that way. We had Morin ranked 15th on our list, so we were VERY happy to get him [at 45].
BWA: Were you worried [that Morin wouldn't still be there later]?
DW: Oh, you’re always worried, but we had other guys on our list that liked a lot. The draft was very deep at the top this year. We had Klingberg and Morin ranked almost back-to-back.
BWA: In the 4th round you traded down and picked up two extra picks?
DW: We had about 5 guys we really liked, so we felt like we could take some risks because they were not all going to be gone before we picked again. To gain those extra picks would be valuable to us.
BWA: One last trade related question, did you get any offers for #4 overall pick that really made you think hard about it?
DW: We had offers that we discussed internally, but nothing that came close. It just doesn’t make sense for us to make a deal for 30 or 34 year old player at this point, not when we can put a high quality young player into our lineup.
BWA: Kane said the team interviewed him several times during the season, was he someone you really keyed on as the season progressed?
DW: We identified him early on and had him high on our list. It is important to get to know these players off the ice and learn about their character. I think we meet with him 7 or 8 times and I met with him twice myself. He’s a strong character guy.
BWA: In the later rounds, you took a goalie. you took a fighter. You take a goalie almost every year—that seems to be part of the organization’s philosophy?
DW: We had him 2nd on our goalie list, so he was still there in the 4th round and we had an extra pick after moving down in that round. So we thought "let’s pick this kid and put him our bank of prospects and let him grow and develop."
BWA: An acquaintance saw Ben Chariot play in the OHL and said that he’s not spectacular but very steady, did you have a similar assessment?
DW: Absolutely. He’s 6’2" right now—a BIG kid. He’s got good feet. He’s a very competitive kid. You’re not going to watch him and think "wow" because he’s not a goal scorer, but you need quality shutdown defensemen and they’re hard to find.
BWA: Late in the draft you took two guys (Budnick and Koper) that Red Line Report had ranked as second round picks. Were you pinching yourself when they slipped that low?
DW: We had them both rated as 2nd round picks too—later in the 2nd round. To get both guys was great. We like to take some non-junior guys because they have a different time frame and we can watch them develop. [Note: junior players must be signed within two years, while college players can wait up to 4 years and European rights are held indefinitely because of the lack of an international transfer agreement] But we had Budnick ranked 45—when that guy is still available in the 6th round you can’t pass on him. We were very happy to get both of them. When you’re drafting that late, you want to find someone that has one outstanding quality and both of these guys do. When know that not all these picks are going to become NHL players. It is a numbers game and obtaining addition picks allows you to take some more chances.
BWA: Every team should walk out of this building excited about their picks. Can you describe how this particular draft compares to other past drafts?
DW: I’m pleased that we ended up adding size at nearly every position in our prospect pool. Over the next couple of years, the players will begin to sort themselves out and we will see which ones are NHL players, but when you leave with nine prospects you increase your chance of success.