Ben Thomas THW Close-Up
Date of Birth: May 28, 1996
Place of Birth: Calgary, AB
Ht: 6’2” Wt: 193 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2014
Ben Thomas came into the WHL as a bit of a question mark. But the progress he’s made over the past 12 months has drastically elevated his draft stock.
One of a pair of rookie defenders on the Calgary Hitmen, Thomas was in many ways the mirror image of his defense partner, Travis Sanheim. Sanheim was a strong defensive defender who needed to gain confidence with the puck. Thomas? He maintained the confidence and offensive jump that made him an effective AJHLer, but struggled in the first month to adjust to the speed and talent of WHL forwards.
The result was an October where he took 19 minutes in penalties and did a lot of learning on the fly. His offensive production dipped a tad after October, but he definitely became a more reliable defensive player. He’s by no means flashy; from a defensive standpoint, he’s very meat-and-potatoes, relying on positioning and skating to out-maneuver attackers. He has more sizzle in his offensive game, not being afraid to jump into the rush or work the puck through a seam. Sometimes that’s resulted in turnovers, but as previously mentioned, Thomas really improved his decision-making as the season wore on, as resulted in taking just 20 minutes in penalties after October.
Sometimes lost in Sanheim’s shadow, Thomas has improved quite a bit during the past year. He still needs to round out a bit, and could stand a bit more physicality in his game, but he’s definitely a solid pick for a team needing a defender. He’s a fast learner, having gone from being a WHL greenhorn to one of the Hitmen’s best players over the course of just one season.
“He’s more consistent. We saw stretches even last year when Benny got called up that he looked poised and polished, but there was a lot of gaps in between his top shifts and bottom shifts… The biggest thing for Ben, he’s gotten better and he’s continued to improve his consistency. When he does that, he continues to improve. He’s got a great skill set and he’s a multi-dimensional player. He’s got good poise and vision offensively but he can play a good, sound defensive game as well, so he’s a guy that can eat up a lot of minutes.”
–Mike Williamson, Hitmen head coach (via CalgaryFlames.com)
Thomas won a bronze medal as part of Team Canada at the U18 World Championships.
Risk 1.5/5, Reward 3.5/5
Second or third-pairing defenseman, albeit one that gets regular power-play time.
- Good mix of size and strength.
- Good skater.
- Good offensive instincts.
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
- Occasionally impatient offensively, tries to force plays.
- Doesn’t play particularly “mean” or physical.
- Could improve his play a bit in his own zone.
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive 7.5/10, Defensive 7/10
NHL Player(s) Comparison:
With his size and style, Thomas project to be a Andrew Ference type.
When He’ll Go In June:
Thomas projects likely as a second or third round pick.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.