I’m a Jack Thompson guy. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Of the seven writers who voted this year, I had Thompson rated the highest (5). I’ve been pumping his tires since the beginning of last season. Now it’s time to see if he can live up to the hype.
It was a breakout season for the 20-year-old defenseman from Ontario. He started the season with a bang as Sudbury’s captain, earning OHL Player of the Week honors in the opening week of the season. He continued racking up the points and was named the OHL Defenceman of the Month for October with four goals and 12 assists for the Wolves.
The strong start to the season made him a somewhat surprising invite to Team Canada’s National Junior Camp, but a COVID outbreak amongst the Wolves prevented him from attending. A month later his career with Sudbury would come to an end as he was traded to the Soo Greyhounds for a couple of players
Once he adjusted to his new team’s style of play, he picked up where he left off with Sudbury - namely playing in all aspects of the game and putting up points. While the offensive production garners a lot of attention, Thompson is considered a two-defenseman who isn’t going to hinder his team in his own zone.
John Dean, his coach at Sault Ste. Maire put it this way:
“He’s so steady. He plays a consistent 25 to 27 minutes a night and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s a one-man breakout pass. He’s very aware of his surroundings in the defensive zone. He can transport the puck if you want to, and he can pass the puck if you want to. He can hammer the puck on the blueline if you want him to, he can walk the blueline if you want him to. He’s just a very versatile defenceman and the scary part is, I think there’s more. He’s working on being even more assertive. His hockey IQ and his versatility as a player and all of the different weapons that he brings, it’s pretty special.”
The postponement of the U20 World Junior Championships until August proved beneficial for Thompson as he was able to join Team Canada where he posted one goal and three assists in seven games as they went on to win the gold medal.
Now that he is done with junior hockey we’ll see if his game will translate to the professional level. He has shown that he can skate well for a defenseman and has an excellent shot. As a rookie in the AHL he might not see much power play time early in the season (especially with Syracuse already having some veteran options to run point) but that could change if he shows Ben Groulx that he deserves time on the special teams unit.
While putting up points from the blue line is his calling card, Thompson is also a responsible player in his own end. That’s always important in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Corey Pronman at The Athletic has rated both his shot and hockey sense as above NHL average. Pronman isn’t as sold on Thompson’s skating, but we all know that is something that doesn’t necessarily bother the Lightning.
What’s his projection? Probably as a second-pairing defenseman who sees power play time and can put up 30-40 points a season. If you figure he spends a couple of seasons with the Crunch, it could line up nicely for him to fight for a spot on the Lightning roster when Zach Bogosian’s contract is over. There is a strong possibility that the right side of the Lightning defense could be Erik Cernak, Jack Thompson, and Nick Perbix in a few seasons. That wouldn’t be too shabby of a development for the Tampa scouting staff.
Things you like to see - a big slapper beating a goaltender from distance.
The first goal shows some pretty nifty skating as he slides through three or four defenders. On the second goal he reads the play and pinches in nicely.