After playing in 72 games during the regular season, Ben Thomas only appeared in three games for the Syracuse Crunch in the postseason. Now, it has been revealed as why. The second-year pro was battling a hip injury. Never mentioned during the season, the defenseman hoped that rest and a rehab program would alleviate the issue. When that failed, the team turned to the surgery option.
Thomas joins Michael Bournival (ACL rehab) and Olivier Archambault (shoulder) as key players that are likely to miss the beginning of the season per Syracuse Crunch General Manager Julien BriseBois. Both Bournival and Archambault’s injuries were known heading into the off-season, with Bournival suffering the injury in a late-season game against Laval and Archambault’s shoulder getting banged up in the second-round sweep at the hands of Toronto.
Thomas’ is a bit of surprise as it was never revealed that he was dealing with an injury during the season. He did leave a game against Laval early (the same game Bournival suffered his ACL injury) but returned to play the rest of the regular season. His offensive contributions since that game (played on March 17th) tailed off as he only picked up two assists in the final eight games of the season. He was held pointless in his three postseason appearances.
Following the Crunch’s defeat at the hands of the Marlies, Thomas made no mention of an injury during his exit interview:
Missing the early part of the season (and training camp) will be a blow toThomas. Once regarded as one of the Lightning’s better defensive prospects, he took a bit of a step back last season. With the Crunch retooling their defensive core (Jamie McBain and Reid McNeill out, Hubert Labrie and Cameron Gaunce in) ,Thomas had the chance to move up into a lead role on the blue line.
While he appears to have the offensive skills needed to contribute on the NHL-level, his primary role as a defender sometimes is forgotten. His struggles recently led him to dip a few spots in the “Honorable Mention” category of Raw Charge’s Top 25 Under 25 rankings.
How long he will be out is still uncertain. BriseBois stated “some point in November” as a possible return date for the three players, but hip injuries can be tricky (just ask Ryan Callahan). The team is unlikely to replace Smith’s spot on the roster while he is out as they have plenty of names to choose from when it comes to defensive prospects.
As for Bournival and Archambault, their prognosis are a little bit better. Bournival is already skating as part of his rehab and Archambault is “progressing nicely” per BriseBois. Their injuries may open up some early season playing time for some of the Crunch’s incoming rookies like Alex Barre-Boulet and Taylor Raddysh.