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2021 Raw Charge Top 25 Under 25: #24 Jack Thompson

An offensive defenseman? In this system?

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Sudbury Wolves v Oshawa Generals Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

When he was taken in the third round of the 2020 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning it was a bit of a surprise pick as he probably would have been around a little longer in the draft. Still, the team liked his size and the offensive nature of his game from the blueline and took a chance on him with the 93rd overall pick.

Over at The Athletic, Corey Pronman does think he has a chance to make it to the NHL and praised his offense, describing the youngster as having “good vision and a better shot” while questioning his mobility and play in the defensive zone.

Thompson is one of the prospects that was hit hard by the lack of games in the CHL. Coming off of a strong 2019-20 with Sudbury (13 goals, 19 assists in 63 games) it would have been nice to see how he played as a post-draft prospect. Instead, the OHL cancelled their season (rightfully so) and he headed overseas to play an abbreviated season with Surahammers IF, a third-tier professional team in Sweden. He performed pretty well in his limited season, posting 18 points in 18 games and leading the defense in goals with 9. That earned him a one-game audition with the Crunch last season (in which he picked up an assist) and then an entry-level contract with the Lightning.

He is most likely going to return to Sudbury for this season as there is plenty of development needed in his game. While he can compete in the offensive zone at a professional level, he still needs to work on his defensive game a bit. He isn’t terrible in his zone and progress should come with maturity and experience. Thompson should be able to pick up the Lightning’s defensive schemes fairly quickly once he enters their system as he does like to use his stick to break up plays in the zone as opposed to muscling players off of the puck.

Unlike a lot of prospects that you’ll read about here over the next few weeks, Thompson is a pretty strong skater. While it isn’t top-end speed, he uses his skill to create openings in the offensive zone and to get back on defense after jumping into plays. The Ontario-native has pretty good offensive offense and knows when to jump into the play down low.

We all know that Coach Cooper has never shied away from allowing his defenders to join the attack. One of the questions Thompson will have to answer is if his speed will translate to the AHL and NHL level. It’s one thing to be fast against players in the OHL, but it’s another when you’re trying to chase down Connor McDavid or Nathan MacKinnon.

As a 19-year-old in the OHL he should take on a top-pairing role with the Wolves and we should have a good look at how he handles the added responsibility. With the Lightning organization thin on the right side, he could move up pretty rapidly, earning major playing time with the Crunch as early as 2022-23.

His offense has been, and will be, his calling card in the organization. Outside of Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev there aren’t many blueliners that profile as an offense-first type of blueliner with the Crunch or Lightning. The Bolts could use more of that as we look ahead to the future. By the time he is ready for the NHL there could be some open spots on the power play for right-shot defenseman who knows how to dish the puck. Thompson could be that guy.