LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Alexander Burmistrov, drafted eighth overall by the Atlanta Thrashers, poses on stage during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Thrashers came into the 2010 NHL Draft with a depleted array of picks after dealing the #24th and #54 overall selections to Chicago (along with 2009 2nd rounder Jeremy Morin) in the trade for Byfuglien, Eager and Sopel. They also traded away a 7th rounder in a contract dump to the San Jose Sharks.
In 2009 the Thrashers had the advantage of extra picks in the 2nd round and were able to leverage those extra chances into two quality prospects (Klingberg and Morin) who were rated by some as potential 1st rounders. In 2010 the Thrashers had an odd combination of possibilities, on the one had, their first pick (#8) positioned them to find an impact talent but then they had sit and wait as 79 players came off the board before making their next selection at #87 overall. In plain English, the Thrashers simply lacked the picks to have a fantastic draft this year.
Having said that they still landed a player who has the potential to be a high quality NHL center. They addressed a position of need. They used their high pick to land the scarcest of commodities, a genuine top six center. They avoided taking a player lots of red flags such as injuries, bad attitude or poor decision making). The were in a position to get value at the #8 spot and they landed value--exactly how much value only time will tell.
In rounds 3, 4 and 5 the Thrashers did snap up some players who slid, but in each case the Thrashers took a player who will need time to develop. Their 3rd round pick Julian Melchiori is a tall skinny defenseman who needs to fill out, but if he retains his skating and puck skills could be a very nice prospect in a few years. Ivan Telegin is a similar case of a guy with a big frame who showed some scoring ability as a 17 year old but is still raw and needs time to refine his game. His most likely path to the NHL is a crunching checker who has some puck skills.
The sixth round pick Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel has made enormous strides. redrik still has several challenges ahead of him. He currently plays for a very defensive-minded team and does not see as many tough shots as some other goalies might. However, his positioning is outstanding and he consistently makes the expected save. Will he retain his excellent positional play as he faces tougher competition in the next few years? Can he make the "highway robbery" type of save if his defense breaks down? These are the challenges and questions he must answer in the future.
Once you get past the 1st and 2nd round in the NHL Draft there are no certainties. At that point you are looking at players who show some promise and have the foundation for constructing a quality hockey player. The mid-round players Atlanta took will all need time, perhaps 3-4 years but they all have that foundation that could turn into something NHL-worthy down the road.
Atlanta did make two trades to bolster their quiver of late round picks. Statistically speaking players taken in rounds 4-6 have an equal chance of making the NHL, in other words a sixth rounder is the same as fourth rounder--they are all equally longshots to make the NHL. Having made that observation, I think it was smart for the Thrashers to move a 5th rounder to gain some extra late round "lottery tickets"--and they rolled the dice on some players in the hopes of finding a gem. The team has had some luck with later round picks reaching the NHL such as Garnet Exelby, Tobias Enstrom, Pasi Nurminen and likely Paul Postma in the near future.
For example, they took a chance on Yasin Cisse who got off to a solid start in the USHL and had his season cut short (literally) when a skate severed a tendon in his leg. The injury prevented other scouts from looking at him, which might have given Atlanta an advantage. Another wild card is Tanner Lane a Minnesota high-school kid who the Atlanta regional scout praised and Dan Marr watched. Lane played terrific late in the season and they took a chance on him. For comparison sake, this is how the Thrashers ended up drafting Paul Postma--he had been getting little icetime but a trade in the WHL gave Postma more opportunity and the Atlanta scout saw him late in the season and the Thrashers took a chance uptick--which has turned out to be a good gamble.
The odds of any of these late round picks becoming a NHL regular are very long, but every year a some teams will hit the lottery. One common theme among these late round picks is that many of them play in more obscure leagues (high school, lower tier junior, lower tier Sweden) or the player was injured. In each case these circumstances might have resulted in these players being observed infrequently.
The Thrashers came into the 2010 Draft with a mixture of opportunities. They had one terrific opportunity to land a quality player (which they appear to have done) and a lack of opportunities in the middle rounds. In spite of these difficulties the team acquired some additional picks and took chances on players who might be underrated or who have the foundation but will need time to build on that foundation. The key thing is that they found one player who is likely to contribute very soon in Burmistrov. In my statistical ranking of past drafts, any team that lands even one high-quality player has an above average draft. We will not be able to grade this draft for many years, but the Burmistrov pick appears to put Atlanta on a track for a solid grade.
PS: I have a great deal of material from this draft, but it will take time to transcribe and assemble so look for player profiles to be posted on BWA in the next few weeks as we count down the days until Prospect Camp.