Tage Thompson will be joining the Buffalo Sabres’ growing youth movement after the team acquired the young forward late Sunday night.
Thompson was a part of the Ryan O’Reilly deal that sent the veteran center to the St. Louis Blues. In return, the Sabres would acquire Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, a 2021 second round draft selection and a 2019 first round draft selection to go along with Thompson.
The Blues selected Thompson with the 26th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft as a true freshman out of UConn. It was there that the 6’5” forward displayed a strong potential to be a valuable offensive asset to a NHL team.
With his size comes physicality— his consistency in that area is pushing him to the wing— but his most intriguing attribute is his shot. It comes off the stick quick, hard and often. Thompson has plenty of confidence in it, especially on the powerplay.
During his freshman year he led the nation in powerplay goals with 13. He scored a total of 14 goals on the year. While this stat could draw criticism, it is worth noting that Thompson consistently created offense at even strength.
Thompson’s one-timer rockets are fun to watch but can be anticipated. That is where his release comes into play. No matter the angle, it seems that Thompson is able to get powerful and accurate shots off that fool netminders.
Another offensive aspect to Thompson’s game that should get fans excited is his vision. From the red line up, Thompson has a knack for creating offense. In the above goal, his accuracy and release do play a big factor, but his eyes do some great work here.
Coming into the zone he has Paul Stastny streaking up his right flank. Greg Pateryn approaches at the blue line.
At this moment, Thompson toes the puck back and suggests there are two plays to possibly execute: he can use his soft hands to dish the puck to Stastny, or he can make a play on net.
Thompson quickly sees an opening that can be attacked. Pateryn is set up right in front of Ben Bishop with his legs agape.
So, using patience and a little hesitation, Thompson waits for the opportunity to attack. Pateryn opens his stick and Thompson fires a quick wrister off the post and in.
Another asset Thompson brings to the table is his straight line speed. Thompson is a major factor in zone entries and breakouts. His long stride allows his to get out ahead of the opponent. From there, he contributes on the forecheck and when given the puck can make some exciting plays happen thanks to his frame and stick handling. This deep dive into Thompson done by Evan Sporer at the The Athletic shows great examples of that.
Going into the draft some said that Thompson could be viewed as one dimensional due to his heavy shot one even strength goal. As he has developed the past two-years, one-dimensional is not a term to describe Thompson.
Thompson’s ability to evade and stick handle in tight spaces should really impress someone who would label him as one dimensional.
Hoy freakin' crap this goal from USA's Tage Thompson is beautiful https://t.co/RWQg0vubHB— Born Salty (@cjzero) December 29, 2016
As for where Thompson sits in his current development, some say that the Blues rushed him into the NHL and still needs time in the American Hockey League while others say that Thompson could start in Buffalo come October. Personally, given how the year is projected to go for the Sabres, I think the best bet for Thompson and the Sabres is to have him start the year in Rochester. There he can work on his defensive game and becoming a true center with the hope in mind that he can earn a call-up, because I do not think I can take another year of Johan Larsson.
For what it is worth, Jason Botterill did have some very positive things to say about the Phoenix, Arizona native.
Botterill says he thinks Thompson can step into the NHL. Perhaps he starts in Buffalo instead of Rochester?— Chad DeDominicis (@CMDeDominicis) July 2, 2018
Whether the Sabres “won” or “lost” the Ryan O’Reilly trade, Buffalo does seem to have added a very skilled young prospect to the fold.