- DOB: July 2, 1999 - Aurora, Ontario
- Team: London Knights (OHL)
- Center | Shoots: R | 6’0”, 193 pounds
- 2016-17 Stats: 66 GP - 16G, 50A, 66 Points, 26 PIM
It’s difficult as a 17-year-old to carve out a role in a perennial OHL powerhouse such as the London Knights, but that’s exactly what the under-the-radar Thomas did in 2016-17. Averaging a point-per-game, the young pivot was used in all situations for the Knights, routinely receiving some of the more difficult defensive assignments night in and night out.
Thomas finished third among London players with 66 points, and one point behind Buffalo prospect Cliff Pu with 52 points at even strength. Next season, with first line responsibilities for the full season and more deployment on the power play, expect Thomas’s point total to skyrocket. Although he didn’t shoot much, averaging fewer than two shots per game, the center’s shooting percentage was over 12%. Increasing his shot volume will lead him to be closer to 25 goals next season.
Thomas is an extremely smart, consistent hockey player who understands the game both offensively and defensively at a high level despite his age. He is a great skater who has an easy stride and fluid agility that allows him to carry the puck out of trouble and win one-on-one situations on the rush.
He is more of a playmaker than a shooter, but will go to the net when necessary. He is good with the puck on his stick, and should be able to play the modern NHL possession game with ease as he continues to develop. Thomas does lack the height of an elite NHL center, but has the body and in some ways the game of a player like Patrice Bergeron.
Defensively, Thomas has the potential to be something special. He’s committed to the defensive side of the puck both at even strength and on the penalty kill, and he’s aided by his faceoff ability, which is already elite among OHL’ers.
Admittedly, I am higher on the young center than most. I feel that he’s going to be the type of player that we look back on a year from now and wonder how he didn’t go higher in the first round. Twelfth overall for Thomas could be perceived as high, especially depending on what players are still on the board, but the Canes have certainly seen a lot of Thomas watching Janne Kuokkanen this season, so they do have a good scouting report on him. Thomas was terrific when it mattered most in the OHL playoffs, where he paired with Kuokkanen on the Knights’ top line.
He fits the Carolina system well, as a player that you can put out in any situation and feel comfortable with him on the ice as a dependable, defensively sound forward. If his offense continues to grow, which I expect it will, Thomas could be a rare two-way player that has shutdown capabilities in the future.