I’ll be totally honest with you: when the Buffalo Sabres got Tage Thompson as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade back in 2018, I didn’t think too much of him. It’s not that I didn’t like him, but he wasn’t exactly a ‘big name’ or a ‘splash’ at the time - just a 20-year-old kid who’d been drafted 26th overall and had nine points in 41 games in his first NHL season.
I certainly didn’t envision him being the Sabres’ top-line center a little shy of four years later, helping lead the team’s resurgence and showcasing his skills as an offensively-talented player. And yet, that’s exactly what he’s done.
Over the years, the now-24-year-old Thompson has settled in nicely with the Sabres. He’s flourished in Don Granato’s system and really started to make a name for himself, not just in Buffalo, but across the league. Many will still only know him as ‘part of that O’Reilly trade,’ just as many will think of Peyton Krebs as ‘part of the Jack Eichel’ trade, but in reality, Thompson has developed into so much more. (So has Krebs, for the record.)
You can’t miss him on the ice. You’ll notice his size first: at 6’7” and 218 pounds, he’s a lanky fellow who towers over his teammates and opponents. Then, quickly, you’ll notice his skill. He throws a lot of shots on net & gets scoring chances as a result. His quick release and consistency are spots that shine through, too.
He’s the first Sabres player to hit 30 goals and 50 points this season. Nearly a third of his tallies have come on special teams, and his 219 shots on goal are tied for the team lead with Jeff Skinner. Thompson is more than surpassing all of his career bests, and it’s clear that his move from the wing to center has benefitted him - and the Sabres overall - greatly.
Earlier this year, he recorded his first career hat trick in a game against Colorado:
Hats off to Tage Thompson for posting his very first NHL @Enterprise hat trick! pic.twitter.com/EognVzPJZM— NHL (@NHL) February 19, 2022
Thompson makes his presence known every night, and it’s been a joy to watch him. In 14 games in March, he scored six goals and added five assists for 11 points, including two game-winning tallies. A busy month of April’s just begun, but in two games, he has three goals. He’s gotten hot at just the right time:
Tage Thompson with one more year left on his contract. Up to 31 goals, clear foundational player for #Sabres. Gonna get paid https://t.co/vOKLgbtlSX— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) April 3, 2022
As Andy Strickland says in the above Tweet, Thompson will certainly be due for a sizable raise when his contract is up. Following this season, he’s still on the books for one more year at $1.4 million, an absolute steal right now. If the Sabres are smart, they’ll lock him up well before he becomes a restricted free agent and give him the money he deserves.
For now, let’s just focus on enjoying watching Thompson’s development and savoring every goal, assist and point he notches - because there will certainly be many more.