2022 Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25, #3: Tage Thompson

Going from the middle of the pack last year to nearly the top of the list now is an official glow-up

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of staff writers and over 600 readers that ranked Buffalo Sabres players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.

Everyone loves a glow-up story and Tage Thompson’s version of it is truly outstanding.

Last year, Thompson ranked No. 12 on Die By The Blade’s Top 25 Under 25 and there were serious questions about whether he was every going to bloom into a regular scorer at the NHL level or not. The same questions kept floating around him.

“Would he ever become the power forward everyone in hockey assumed he would turn into?”

“Could he shake off being the big return in what was one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory?”

“Could he become a regular NHL player, period?”

With one move by coach Don Granato, all those questions were erased to never be asked again. Instead, they’ve since been replaced by questions like:

“Can he score 40 goals? Or 50?”

“Can he be the best goal-scoring No. 1 center in the NHL?”

“Can he lead the Buffalo Sabres back to the postseason?”

Granato moving Thompson to center with Jeff Skinner as one of his wingers, eventually to be joined by Alex Tuch, and have one of the top scoring lines in the NHL changed the course of Thompson’s career.

Last season, Thompson scored 38 goals—more than twice as many as he scored in his previous four pro seasons. He had 68 points in total which was 33 more than he had compiled before that. It was a career-year in every sense of the term and one that sets the bar for him to meet or clear again as his time in Buffalo continues.

His monster season showed that, yes, he can score in the NHL, and no, it’s not as a power forward. Instead, he does it as a 6’7” playmaking center with lightning quick hands and an even faster release on his wrist shot to go along with his booming slapper on power plays.

Thompson went from being predictably used as a big guy to being thoroughly deceptive with his shots and puck handling because he’s big. It’s a remarkable change of fortune for a player who has always been talented (he was a first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2016 after all) but was always miscast in his role under no fault of his own.

Now that the Sabres have unlocked Thompson’s true abilities, the sky is the limit for him and for the organization because of it.