Tage Thompson wasn’t supposed to be here.
The slightly older prospect doesn't have the same acclaim that previous standout NCAA freshmen have had over the years. He doesn’t have the same standout experience on the United States national team that most other high profile American boys have, scoring just 26 points in one season with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He also started his NCAA career playing on the UConn's fourth line.
But now, Thompson is preparing to hear his name called within the first two rounds of the NHL Draft this summer in Buffalo.
- Born: October 30, 1997
- Nationality: American
- Height: 6'5"
- Weight: 185 lbs
- Team: Connecticut Huskies (NCAA)
- Position: Wing
A power forward who can also excel away from the net
The 6’5 winger from Oyster Bay, N.Y. has done a lot over the previous year on the ice. As a true freshman at UConn, he registered 14 goals and 18 assists in just 36 games. With one of the best slap shots in this draft, Thompson became one of UConn's best weapons on the ice by the end of the season, scoring only behind former Blues second-round pick Maxim Letunov on the Huskies roster.
Though the point totals are relatively high for an NCAA freshman, make no mistake that Thompson is a very raw prospect.
Of Thompson’s 14 goals, 13 of them came while on the man advantage. This is a pretty concerning number in terms of his five-on-five play, but the 13 power play goals also led the NCAA this past season. As noted above, his slap shot is far beyond most prospects his age, especially in an era where the slap shot is primarily a special teams weapon.
Thompson also needs to become a better defensively-minded player as his college career continues. While his skating is smooth for his height and he plays comfortably with the puck on his stick, he doesn’t utilize his size or reach when defending against the rush as well as you’d hope. He had, however, just 12 penalty minutes on the year, which is great for a physical player with unmatched size.
Will he be the fit for the Flyers?
The Flyers will probably at least evaluate Thompson through the draft process. They have the 18th pick in Round 1, and Thompson is currently rated roughly around pick 20. In comments, Hextall noted that he wants to add size and scoring to the Flyers forwards. GM’s words are really just that this time of year, but if we were to take Hextall at face value, Thompson would be a developmental kid to fill that role in the future.
Tage Thompson is undoubtedly a raw prospect that might not make an NHL impact for a good bit of time. That said, he has a lot of upside.. His shot, his size, his skating, and his discipline are all legitimate aspects that can be built on towards having a successful NHL career. If the Flyers feel they have the ability to groom Thompson’s skills over the next few years, he could be an exciting player to watch develop.