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Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25: #11 Tage Thompson

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 500 readers that ranked players under the age of 25 by September 1st, 2019. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.

Once considered the major piece in the Ryan O’Reilly deal, Tage Thompson’s lackluster debut season with the Sabres has seen him drop a spot from last year’s Top 25 Under 25 countdown. While his strong skating ability, slick toe-drags, and elite shot are promising assets, the ability to consistently sustain offense hasn’t been there yet for the youngster. Due to his flash-in-the-pan talent, he has become somewhat of a polarizing topic amongst the fanbase.

After putting up nine points in 41 games in his rookie season – .22 points per game – Thompson’s scoring declined to .18 points per game this past season. Sometimes points don’t tell the whole story, and some positivity can be found in a deeper dig into statistics. However, that is not the case with Tage to date. Thompson finished the season dead last on the team in goals above replacement, and fifth-last in expected goals per 60. That, along with his struggles with consistency and in the defensive zone, eventually led to a demotion to the AHL.

As of now, it is tough to say what is in store for Thompson in 2019-2020. He posted nine points in his eight game stint with the Amerks at the end of last season, suggesting that his talent alone might make him too good to keep in the minors. However, there is no evidence from his play at the NHL level so far to suggest that he is primed to take a leap forward and become a positive impact player.

With a new coach to impress, Thompson has the chance to win over a new member of the braintrust. Whether or not it will be enough to make the cut, remains to be seen. The one thing he has going against his case, is the high number of players expected to be on the cutline this training camp that contain “veteran status”. The Americans can only dress a maximum of five players in a game that have played more than 260 professional games, at any level. Since Thompson does not have veteran status, Jason Botterill’s hand may be forced to point him to the AHL again if he does not stand out in training camp.

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