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Coming out of the AJHL, Ben Thomas a solid rookie season for his hometown junior team, the Calgary Hitmen, putting up 7 goals and 31 points in 72 games during the regular season, and helping to lead the Hitmen to 103 points and a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Edmonton Oil Kings (they would be #3 seed due to a tiebreaker). He would put up 1 goal and 6 points in 6 games for Calgary in the WHL playoffs, but the Hitmen found themselves on the wrong end of a first round upset to Sam Reinhart and the Kootaney Ice. That wouldn’t be the end of Thomas’ season though as he joined Calgary teammates Jake Virtanen and Travis Sanheim in helping Team Canada to a bronze medal at the IIHF World U18 Championships.
Defense — shoots Right
Born May 28 1996 — Calgary, ALTA
Height 6.02 — Weight 193 [188 cm/88 kg]
Ben Thomas has good size (6’2″) and solid mobility on the blue line. He has good speed and acceleration going forward but could use some work on his speed going backwards. He makes up for it though with really good agility, excellent agility, and strong edgework and pivots. Thomas is able to use that lateral agility in the offensive zone as well, walking the line extremely well and opening up passing and shooting lanes from the point. He’s also strong on the puck and has good balance on his skates, helping him in board battles.
Thomas has very good vision and excellent passing skill. He is patient with the puck on his stick and willing to wait for a play to open up rather than force things and create giveaways. He has a good shot, but best of all understands how to get it through traffic and on net. Does a good job of keeping his shot low for tip-ins and rebound opportunities for teammates. Thomas is willing to join or lead the rush from the back-end. He is able to skate the puck out of danger and makes a good first pass out of the zone.
Defensively, Thomas has really improved this season. He struggled in September and October but got better as the year went along. He became better at clearing the crease, taking the body, and winning battles along the boards. He could stand to be better at using his stick though to create turnovers, as he doesn’t utilitze his reach to cut down passing lanes as well as he could. A little bit better positioning and anticipation would really help Thomas become a truly stout defender. Its not that he is a bad defender now, its just that this would make him even more effective.
Ben Thomas’ style is reminiscent of Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This isn’t a talent comparison though, just a style one. In terms of potential he could be a solid two-way top 4 defenceman who gets some time on the powerplay, likely the second unit.
Here are some highlights of Thomas in action.
Come back tomorrow to check out my next prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft.
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