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The London Knights seem to constantly produce high quality NHL prospects, and this year is no different. In centre Robert Thomas, there is another reason for NHL scouts to visit the John Labbatt Centre this season. Thomas put up 16 goals and 66 points for the Knights this year. He added three goals and 12 points in 14 playoff games, before the Knights were eliminated at the hands of the Owen Sound Attack.
Last season, Thomas played for Team Canada White at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge, helping the team to a gold medal. He also played limited minutes, scoring 15 points in 40 games, and five points in 15 OHL playoff games, and one assist at the Memorial Cup in for eventual champions.
Robert Thomas Scouting Report: 2017 NHL Draft #20
Center — shoots Right
Born July 2, 1999 — Aurora, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 184 lbs [183 cm / 83 kg]
Thomas is a decent but not great skater. He has good agility and edgework, making him elusive with and without the puck. He also has a quick first step and good acceleration helping Thomas to get to loose pucks, and win short races. However his top end speed is merely a slight bit above average. It is an area he can improve by cleaning up a bit of a choppy stride, and by adding power to his lower body. He has good balance, and is strong on the puck, helping Thomas to be strong in the cycle game. He is also good in battles along the boards and is relentless in his pursuit of the puck in all three zones.
Thomas is an extremely smart player, making the right plays both with and without the puck. Offensively, he has soft hands and good stick handling ability. He can control the puck off the rush and in working down low, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. Thomas uses his good lateral agility to make quick moves and open up a passing or shooting lane. He also has the vision to find teammates with smart passes, and to set-up plays.
Thomas is more of a play maker than a goal scorer. He has good accuracy on his shot, but could stand to improve his power, as well as working on a quicker release. Most of his goals come in tight to the net, where he can utilize his quick and soft hands. While Thomas is good on the rush, he tends to like to dump and chase the puck. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and creates havoc in the corners and pressures defencemen into making mistakes. While he will need to get stronger going forward, he is more than willing to battle with bigger defencemen.
A strong two-way centre, Thomas even plays shorthanded minutes on a strong Knights club. He is a hard worker, who is good in applying back pressure and supports the defense down low in the cycle game. Thomas is relentless in his puck pursuit in all three zones, and battles hard along the boards. He is also very good positionally, anticipating plays and creating turnovers before transitioning to offence. Thomas is extremely good in the face-off circle as well.
Projection and Comparison
Thomas has the skills to be an effective two-way centre at the NHL level. There is some question if he has the high end offensive ability to be a number one centre, but he could develop into a very good number two, capable of matching against top lines and playing special teams minutes. In terms of style, his game is comparable to Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames.
The following is a compilation of highlights, assembled from Youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect available on our draft board.