With the 19th-overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Ottawa Senators selected Lassi Thomson. The choice is questionable, to say the least, as many rankings had Thomson in the second round and the Senators have the first selection (32) in that round. The Senators also passed on higher-ranked selections Samuel Poulin, Arthur Kaliyev and Raphael Lavoie.
Yet looking closer, this pick may just turn out to be a brilliant choice by general manager Pierre Dorion and the scouting team. Thomson is a right-hand defenseman, which the team needs. In last year’s draft, the team selected it’s only other promising right-hand defender, Jacob Bernard-Docker, with the 26th-overall pick.
Thomson comes from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, just finishing his rookie season. He was a finalist for Rookie of the Year and was named to a WHL Western Conference Second Team All-Star. In 63 games, he had 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points.
He’s got great vision, great awareness, is very mobile, and is a solid playmaker. He still has some work to do though. He needs to improve on his shot and make better decisions when deciding to jump into the rush. Like many prospects at this age, he needs to put on some size and strength as well.
The Senators were likely targeting a defender with a right-hand shot, as I discussed in my 2019 Senators Draft Guide. With Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings, 6th overall) and Victor Söderström (Arizona Coyotes, 11th overall) already selected, Thomson was probably the third-best on their list.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“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.
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.”
Senators Future Defense Taking Shape
The Senators future is looking extremely bright. We already know that Thomas Chabot is a star. Bernard-Docker and Erik Brannstrom look to be absolute studs themselves. Mix in Thomson now, and Ottawa is increasingly looking to have one of the best defensive lineups in the league in a few years. Although the Colorado Avalanche might have something to say about that after selecting Bowen Byram fourth-overall. We all know how they got that pick by now.
Thomson will likely take a couple of years at least before he cracks the NHL lineup, but it will be interesting to watch his development. It currently looks like he’s headed home to Finland next season, as he has a contract with Ilves in the Liiga. If that’s the case, he may spend a year or two in Finland before coming over to try and make the Senators roster.
The Senators still have another six picks to make in the 2019 NHL Draft. To keep up with all of the selections, head over to The Hockey Writers’ live tracker.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.