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Top 25 Under 25, #18: Lassi Thomson

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Last year’s first-round pick falls two spots on our annual list.

NHL: JUN 29 Ottawa Senators Development Camp Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

18. Lassi Thomson (Reader Rank: 17, Last Year: 16)

You fine readers and us less-than-fine writers can’t get much closer in our opinions of Lassi Thomson.

While he dropped two spots on this year’s list, the 20 year-old Finnish defender put to rest any doubts that he wasn’t better served by returning to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets in 2019-2020. Electing to join Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga), Thomson stepped into a league dominated by men, and proved that he belongs. He roared out of the gate, and used his booming shot to finish the truncated season with a highly respectable seven goals and six assists in 39 games with his European club.

The Ottawa Senators’ 2019 first-round selection, Thomson’s year was highlighted by his performance at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship, captaining Finland to a hard-fought bronze medal. While he was held to three assists in seven games, Thomson impressed with his rarely spoken of defensive acumen, as well as leadership skills both on and off the ice.

Thomson’s World Juniors performance, coupled with an impressive first campaign in Finland, had fans of the Ottawa Senators excited about their shiny young defence prospect. His initial scouting reports labelling him as an offensive d-man with a lethal point shot didn’t appear exaggerated in the slightest, and his all-around game was showing signs of improvement.

Things have gotten off to a rocky start for the 20 year-old, however, to begin the on-and-off 2020-2021 season. While it would appear that the Senators have a desire to get Thomson playing in at Belleville whenever the AHL season eventually gets underway, he’s begun the campaign by returning to Ilves until such time as the NHL and NHLPA actually decides that they would like to have a season.

Thomson hasn’t quite been able to find the same game this year, only posting two assists through 18 games. He’s struggled to stay in the Ilves lineup, often finding himself on the bottom pairing, or serving as a seventh defenceman.

While this is understandably cause for concern among fans, it doesn’t appear to be time to push the panic button on Lassi Thomson just yet. He’s still only 20 years old, playing in a tough league, and it’s reasonable to assume that a smaller North American ice surface will allow him to return to form.

Thomson certainly has work cut out for him, though, as he looks down the barrel of competing with the likes of Jacob Bernard-Docker, Erik Brannstrom, Artyem Zub, and whomever the Senators acquire, or add in the defenceman-rich 2021 draft.

He will have a golden opportunity to find his way with the Belleville Senators this year, and should have no trouble getting back on track.