2021-22 Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Date of Birth: April 14, 2003
Place of Birth: New Westminster, BC, Canada
Ht: 6-foot-0, Wt: 170 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 second-year eligible
After going undrafted in 2021, Thomas Milic put himself firmly on the map in 2021-22. With a career-high 47 starts and a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA) and .912 save percentage (SV%) during the regular season and an eye-popping 2.29 GAA and .925 SV% along with two shutouts in the playoffs, he was everything and more for the Seattle Thunderbirds. In fact, he led them all the way to the WHL Final against the powerhouse Edmonton Oil Kings. Unfortunately, his team couldn’t ride him to the Memorial Cup as they ended up losing 4-2 in a hard-fought series where he only allowed more than three goals once.
Related: THW’s FREE 2022 NHL Draft Guide
With his impressive season behind him, all Milic can do is wait for the 2022 Draft to unfold to find out if he will have an NHL team next to his name on Elite Prospects when the festivities come to a close on July 8. It’s hard to imagine a world where that doesn’t happen, as he did everything to stand out among a goaltending draft class that doesn’t have the flashy names of Sebastian Cossa and Jesper Walstedt.
While Milic didn’t get any bigger since the 2021 Draft, he did get more experience between the pipes, appearing in 36 more games than the last two seasons combined. Standing at 6-foot-0, he is still one of the shortest goaltenders available, but that doesn’t mean he can’t succeed. Just look at Juuse Saros (5-foot-11) and Casey DeSmith (6-foot-0). Having said that, his lack of height will be a hurdle that he will have to jump over throughout his career if he hopes to succeed as a starter, backup or even a third-string American Hockey League (AHL) goaltender in the future.
But enough of Milic’s weaknesses. Let’s talk about his strengths. One of them lies in the mental game, as he’s probably one of the calmest and most collected goalies out there. He also thrives under pressure and seems to raise his game when the going gets tough, case in point, the WHL Playoffs. Finally, his positioning, athleticism and play-reading abilities are very impressive, which is a necessity given the height he has to work with.
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Thomas Milic – NHL Draft Projection
As mentioned, Milic was left without a partner following the 2021 Draft. That shouldn’t happen this time as a team with a lack of goaltending prospects will definitely take a chance on the undersized tender from New Westminster. He might even garner some attention in the fourth or fifth round depending on where the higher-ranked goaltenders go.
“I’m a consistent goaltender that you can rely on every single night. I play a calm, collected style, but can also make big, athletic saves when needed. Reliability is a word that I like to use.” – Thomas Milic
“When all cylinders are firing — this game, his combination of focus, play-reading ability, and competitive fire — he is borderline unbeatable. The ease with which he was reading the play and arriving square to the puck before a shot was made was noticeably frustrating the opposition…The strengths of Milic’s game are in his mental processing, predictive skill, steadiness of thought, and compete level. These more intangible facets are harder to hang your hat on and take a swing on as a draft pick. Having seen him consistently outperform more hyped and prototypical goaltending prospects since he was 14-years-old, I think I lean to Milic being one of the exceptions to the rule” (from ‘23950 – Edmonton vs. Seattle Player Report’, Donesh Mazloum – FC Hockey, 6/7/22).
“A strong, dependable gatekeeper between the pipes that usually play with confidence. Plays a tidy, technical game. Is self-aware and conscious when it comes to the position. Compensates for his size with quickness and aggressive positioning. Rarely locks onto an angle as he’s shifty and efficient on his feet. Shows strong lower body agility and able to move his feet to adapt and give lower percentage looks at the net. Dynamic speed moving laterally and remains poised. – FC Hockey’s 2021 Draft Guide
- Compete level
- Mental game
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
What will probably hold Milic back from becoming a starter in the NHL is his lack of height. Unfortunately, the position is still largely dominated by goaltenders who are at least 6-foot-2 or taller. That doesn’t mean he can’t succeed, it’s just that it will be tougher to do so. Luckily for him, he’s got other tools that could possibly make up for it in his competitive fire, positioning and athleticism. It will be tough, but I can see him becoming a solid backup in the NHL at some point, especially considering the massive step he took in his game in only a season. It might take a few years, but watch out for Milic in the future, whether he ends up being drafted or not.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 4/5
Milic was named to the United States Division’s 2021-22 Second All-Star team and won a U18 World Junior gold medal with Team Canada in 2021. He was also named the WHL’s Goaltender of the Week for the week ending May 15, 2022.
Thomas Milic Statistics
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.