2018-19 Team: Kelowna Rockets (#2)
Date of Birth: September 24, 2000
Place of Birth: Tampere, Finland
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 190 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2019 first-year eligible
- The Hockey Writers (Pike’s Picks): 36th (final)
- Future Considerations: 48th (final)
- ISS: outside of first round (April)
- Bob McKenzie: outside of top 15 (April; draft lottery update)
- Craig Button: 57th (June)
There are a few major junior teams in Canada that find a way to consistently recruit and develop players that get drafted and play in the National Hockey League. In the Western Hockey League, somehow the Kelowna Rockets just keep finding and developing strong defensive prospects. While Finnish import Lassi Thomson isn’t as complete a player as some of his predecessors, he’s a strong prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft.
A product of Tampere, Finland, Thomson came up through the system of his hometown team, Ilves. He was an offensively productive teen at the under-16, under-18 and under-20 levels, wearing a letter at times. Looking for a challenge, he headed to the WHL through the Import Draft and joined Kelowna.
Playing against bigger, older players in the Dub – and making ongoing adjustments to his game as he figured out the smaller North American ice – Thomson had a really productive offensive season. He was 21st in the league in points by defenders – and second behind only Vancouver Giants star Bowen Byram in points by under-18 players. His production was skewed a bit towards special teams time, as he was very dangerous with the extra space on the power play.
Related: Our Free NHL Draft Guide
Thomson is a smart, mobile defender. He skates well and his hockey sense allows him to anticipate his teammates’ movements and set up nice offensive plays. He occasionally suffers from gaffes in his own end, and at times his eyes get a bit bigger than his stomach offensively – his enthusiasm in trying to force offensive plays can lead to turnovers and scoring chances headed towards his net.
After one season in the WHL, it seems like Thomson is headed home – he has a contract with Ilves for a couple seasons – and it’ll be interesting to see how reverting back to the large ice impacts his development. Regardless of where he’s playing over the next season or two, he’s a smart, offensive-minded defender with tremendous upside. If he can work on his decision-making a bit, he’ll be a fantastic pick-up at the 2019 NHL Draft
Lassi Thomson – NHL Draft Projection
Thomson most likely is drafted in the second round, though if a team is in love with his potential he could slip into the late first round.
“He’s not big but he has a big shot from the blue line. And it’s not just a heavy shot, it’s pretty accurate as well. His playmaking abilities aren’t quite as good but they’re pretty good as well. He’s also developed a lot as a skater this season, and it’s a strength for him now. That skating ability allows him to be a good transitional defenseman. His defensive game needs a lot of work before he’s ready to play in the NHL.” – Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects
“He’s got a lot of tools. He’s got some advantages, and watching him so much, he really plays engaged. It doesn’t matter who his opponent is, he’s going to go for it. His compete is awesome, it’s off the charts. His motor is just running all the time at that high, high level, and it’s starting to rub off on the rest of our team.” – Adam Foote, Kelowna Rockets head coach
- Really strong vision and awareness in the offensive zone.
- Strong puck distributor, able to make crisp passes to teammates.
- Good mobility, able to skate himself in and out of trouble.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Needs to pick his spots better, in terms of jumping into the rush.
- Needs to keep filling out physically and building up muscle.
- Needs to keep developing his shot as an offensive weapon.
Other 2019 NHL Draft Profiles
Thomson projects as an offensively-oriented top four defender. If he can build up his defensive game, he could earn first pairing minutes. His best-case NHL scenario is becoming Miro Heiskanen.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 8.5/10, Defense 7.5/10
Thomson represented Finland at the Under-18 World Championship, capturing a gold medal. He was named a WHL Western Conference Second Team All-Star in 2018-19 and was a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
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.