16. Lassi Thomson (Reader Rank: 13, Last Year: N/A)
When the Ottawa Senators selected Lassi Thomson 19th overall in this year’s entry draft, most folks who follow these things closely were a bit surprised. Thomson was rated as a solid second round pick by most ranking systems, and even the player himself was a bit surprised to hear his name called so early on. NHL Central Scouting had him at 15th among North American skaters, while Elite Prospects and Bob McKenzie both had him at 35th. Colin’s Expected Pick Range tool, which synthesized draft rankings from 60 sources, had him at 37th. Does it seem, then, that the Sens reached a bit when they took Thomson where they did? Absolutely. Does that information tell us much of anything about his potential for making the NHL? Probably not.
If Thomson is going to live up to draft slot, it will likely be in large part because of his offensive skills. The young Finn netted an impressive 41 points in 63 games for the Kelowna Rocket as a WHL rookie last year. He’s primarily known for his absolute cannon of a shot, but he also possesses an impressive ability to make plays with the puck. Some of you may have already seen this clip but I think it’s worth sharing again:
There’s a lot to like in just that brief clip: the patience with the puck, the incredible edge work, and the quick release on his shot all make an appearance. His offensive skill set earned him a spot on the top power play unit for Kelowna. where he produced seven goals and twelve assists. Thomson also puts his skating and passing to good use in the defensive end, where he regularly helped to lead clean zone exits. From what I’ve personally seen of him, Thomson’s ability to elude forecheckers was impressive. Evading professionals is a lot trickier than CHL players, however, and how he fares in his first pro season could go a long way towards telling us if his skills will translate to the highest level of competition.
The main knock on Thomson is that while he does several things very well offensively, nothing about him is “elite” besides maybe his shot. He also did seem to struggle at times defending in the WHL. Even his most ardent supporters would still agree that he’s at least a few years away from impacting the NHL team. His decision to play in Finland this year probably means we won’t see him in Ottawa before the 2020-21 season. Given the Sens’ window for play-off contention, let alone Stanley Cup contention, won’t likely open up before then that shouldn’t cause too much concern.
In his write-up of the Sens 2019 draft, Corey Pronman had this to say about Thomson:
Thomson had a great first WHL season, playing big minutes in all situations for Kelowna. There are a lot of positive attributes in his game. He has an absolute rocket from the point that can beat goalies clean, as well as generate opportunities around the net. He can move the puck very well with his brain and feet. His puck game is good, showing the ability to generate clean exists and entries, stretch the ice on breakouts, and showing confidence with the puck. He can at times make high-end plays with his poise and vision, but he also tends to be too cute with the puck and play without urgency, leading to costly turnovers. Defensively I don’t mind his game, but his strength is more with the puck than without it. I think his offensive game is high-end enough to balance out any minor defensive issues. He’s going back to Finland next season.
Nonetheless, taken all together, it’s not hard to see why the Sens believed they were landing a real gem. Dorion and his team went off the board, so to speak, in taking Thomson where they did. Selections like that can make you look very smart or very foolish; the Sens are hoping that this gamble will help them solidify the right side of their defense for years to come.