Coming in at #24 we have we have the prodigiously sized Tage Thompson. Thompson brings a skill game rarely seen in such a big man and was exceptionally productive for a 17 year old NCAA freshman. That said there are some reasons for concern when it comes to how and when he was scoring those points, as well as whether it was him or his frequent line mates who were really driving the offense.
After the jump we’ll take a look at Thompson and why he’s a guy who would be considered more of a long term prospect, but one with whom the upside at the end may be too much to pass up.
- Age: 18, 1997-10-30
- Birthplace: Oyster Bay, NY, USA
- Frame: 6’5″ 185 lbs.
- Position: C/RW
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: University of Connecticut Huskies
- Accomplishments/Awards: 2014-2015 U18 WJC Gold Medal
|pGPS n||pGPS s||pGPS %||pGPS P/GP||pGPS R|
|NHL CSS||ISS||Future Considerations||HockeyProspect||Pronman||McKeen’s||McKenzie||Button|
He’s a skilled big man. Thompson shows the ability to make decent offensive plays, displaying strong coordination and puck-movement ability for a 6-foot-5 player. Thompson also has a big shot, often being used this season as a trigger man on the point for Connecticut. His defensive hockey sense is fair, as he was a quality penalty killer during his time with the USNTDP. His skating isn’t the best, though. His speed isn’t horrible for a big man, but he’s not a burner at all. And despite his size, Thompson isn’t the most physical player you will find in the draft.
A former member of the NTDP who starred as a freshman for UConn, Thompson is a sniper with an excellent shot whose development in terms of NHL readiness has a handful of years remaining. He’s pretty one-dimensional at this point — all but one of his 14 goals were scored on the power play. But 5-on-5 production will come in time, as will his ability to continue battling well after initial contact with an opponent. He’s got the kind of size (6’2) you’d love to see on your flank, but there’s some work left to do.
“He’s a pro player,” NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. “For him to go into that program and get the ice time and production he’s getting, he’s getting bigger and stronger and his skating has picked up. He upgraded his skating even though he didn’t need to, so he’s one of these guys who can get in, protect the puck, get it to the net and he’s hard to check. “As a freshman, to go there and get that ice time, and be given the responsibility that he has, that’s what is impressive.”
The son of former NHLer Brent Thompson, Tage came up through the US NTDP where he was part of the gold medal winning team USA at last years World Under 18 Championship. Thompson left the program this season to begin his NCAA career as a 17 year old freshman. Standing at 6’5″ Thompson has the look of an imposing player on the ice. Contrary to that however he tends to not play a particularly physical brand of hockey, rather Thompson plays a skilled forward game relying more on his high level hands and shot. Though he’s considered a ‘true’ freshman this season it is worth noting that he is an older draft eligible having been born in October.
Thompson’s first NCAA season has to be characterized as a success. After a brief stint in the bottom half of the lineup, he was moved onto a line with fellow freshman Max Letunov and the pair found nearly instant chemistry. Connecticut did not have a very strong team over all but the powerplay was a bit of a bright spot and that was largely due to the Letunov-Thompson combo. Thompson’s combination of size and booming shot served him well this season and made him an ideal special teams performer as the skills gave him the ability to be a point/half wall triggerman one moment and front of the net presence the next. What really makes him so effective however, is that he has a set of hands rarely seen on such a big man, he showed a strong ability to pick pucks out of scrums and get a shot on net through obstructing bodies. As is often the case with bigger players his skating could use some work, but it is strong enough not to be a significant hindrance and is something he should be able to improve with time. Though adept at playing center, Thompson spent the majority of the 15-16 season at right wing.
The numbers are not particularly favorable for Thompson however. While the sample size is quite small due to there being so few big men who score like he has, only three of 11 similarly productive players went on to be NHLers, and of that group none were particularly good scorers at the highest level. Even looking at the less advanced stats, the vast majority of Tage’s scoring came on the powerplay and generally you’d prefer to see prospects be more productive at even strength. Some of this can certainly be explained by him playing on such a weak team and not having much to work with outside of Letunov, but on the other side of that coin it’s quite likely that on a stronger team he would not have been playing the sort of minutes or getting the powerplay opportunities that he did on the Huskies.
Thompson is a player that can be characterized as a long term prospect. If he can iron out his skating a little bit and get better at finding the soft areas to score from in the offensive zone at even strength the way he’s able to on the powerplay, he has all the physical tools to be a top 6 player at the NHL level. Alternatively, if the offense does not look like it will translate, with some work on his physical game he would likely be able to carve out a niche as a bottom of the lineup forward.
Most scouting services have Thompson pegged to go in the latter third of the first round. There are some legitimate concerns about his lack of production at even strength, and how much of his scoring was just due to his strong chemistry with Letunov. In the end though, Thompson’s physical gifts paired with his high level hands and shot combine into a package that likely shows too much upside to see him last very long on the draft board. I’d expect Thompson to go in the late twenties to early thirties on draft day.