Who is Tage Thompson?
A true freshman power forward from the University of Connecticut, Thompson has been ranked as high as 20th by McKeen’s Scouting and by NHL Central Scouting (among North American skaters) and as low as 93rd among ESPN’s Corey Pronman’s Top 100 Prospects. As yet, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among scouts as to where he should be taken—late first round, early second round, or even late second—but there does seem to be a consensus among teams about one thing.
They all want to figure him out.
All 30 teams interviewed Thompson at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo at the end of May in an attempt to determine whether they should use one of their prized draft picks to select him. While Thompson, a center who can also play right wing, is one of the older players in this year’s draft, teams find his raw talent both appealing and a sign of future potential, if he is developed well.
Currently 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, Thompson put up impressive point totals in his freshman year in Connecticut—32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 36 regular season games—and plans to return to the NCAA next season. He isn’t the most physical of players, and could stand to add more muscle to his lanky frame, but his offensive prowess is what has teams sniffing around.
Thompson is big, but he’s skilled. He has a bomb of a shot that he uses on the power play, and his puck-moving abilities are solid. He has a tendency to make the simple plays wherever possible—he’s not the most creative guy, but keeping it simple seems to work for Thompson. He won’t make flashy, highlight-reel plays, but he’s dependable at both ends of the ice.
His work on the power play this season is perhaps what stands out the most about Thompson. He lead the NCAA with 13 power play goals (the next highest total was 10), and they weren’t just scored from one place. While his one-timer is often effective, Thompson has also been known to score by crashing the net.
Teams will want to see improvement in his even-strength production, because while power play scoring is excellent, it can’t be where the majority of a player’s points come from. To be a good pro in the NHL, strong even-strength play is a must.
In addition to adding some muscle, Thompson would also be well served to work on his skating. As a bigger player, mobility isn’t necessarily his strong suit, and focusing his efforts in that area could add to his offensive capabilities in the future as well as boosting the defensive side of his game.
He killed penalties often with the USNTDP, and has been used as a defenseman on the penalty kill with Connecticut. If he’s going to kill penalties in the NHL, however, with the direction the game is headed, he’s going to need to be able to move quickly and well.
If a team is very high on Thompson, he could go late in the first round—think in the neighborhood of picks 20 to 30. More realistic, however, is to expect him to still be around when the second round begins. Taking him anywhere in the first half of the second would likely be a reasonable choice.
With all 30 teams having shown interest in him at the combine, however, where exactly Thompson will end up at the end of the day is anyone’s guess.