Tage Thompson has the talent, size and versatility to succeed, but can he fulfill his undoubted potential with the Buffalo Sabres?
Of more importance — and relevance — is to concentrate of what the Sabres got in exchange for O’Reilly. This includes Tage Thompson, who is arguably the most intriguing piece of the return package.
What makes Thompson so intriguing, is his upside. He’s talented, big and versatile; all attributes which can help him become a top-six forward in the NHL.
In fact, it’s these attributes which persuaded the St. Louis Blues to select the 2016 26th overall draft pick in the first place. However, the Sabres shouldn’t expect him to have an immediate impact.
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Thompson still has some way to go, before fulfilling his undoubted potential. For a start, he still needs to work on his defensive game and could do with filling out his considerable frame.
At least the 20-year-old is already on the right track, after gaining his first experience at the NHL level this past season. He played in 41 games for the Blues, averaging 11:15 of ice time per contest, while scoring three goals and adding six assists.
Thompson admits he didn’t see the trade coming, as he assumed the Blues were happy and wanted to keep him around. However, after the initial shock wore off, he realized the move was actually beneficial to him.
The Glendale, Arizona native discussed his thinking with Jack Goods of The Buffalo News. He said:
"“St. Louis, they rely more on their veteran guys, so I was kind of pigeonholed in a sense. I didn’t get to play a lot or play the game that I want to play. I’m excited to come to a new team, new organization with some young players that can go out there and have fun, make mistakes, learn and develop.”"
Thompson is listed as a center. However, the belief is he will find more success — and playing time — on the wing.
Wherever he lines up, the right-hander will look to use his build to his advantage. At 6 foot 5, he’s the tallest player currently on the Sabres’ roster.
It will be interesting to see how much Thompson does play in the NHL next season. In theory, an argument can be made for not throwing him in at the deep end.
However, after how disastrous this past season was for the Sabres, what’s the worst that can happen? The only way is up, after finished bottom of the NHL standings.
Further, Thompson is now just the latest addition to an intriguing and talented young core of players. There is some justification in playing them all from the get-go in 2018-19 and letting them grow together and build up a rapport.
For his part, the US International would have no issue with this. Again reported by Goods, he said:
"“I think I play better when there’s more pressure, when I’m relied on a little bit more. It was that way for me at UConn for those two years there. I feel like I thrive under pressure.”"
After everything they’ve been through over the last seven seasons, these are exciting times for Buffalo Sabres fans. Now, it’s up to Thompson and his teammates to justify this excitement.
What’s your take on Thompson? How soon — if at all — do you see him regularly contributing at the NHL level for the Buffalo Sabres? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.