Standing 6 feet 5 inches tall, Tage Thompson was never going to hide from anyone on the ice.
Now that the UConn sophomore has shown his ability, opponents know they have to keep an eye on the rangy forward.
“It’s something you gotta work through. The older you get and higher level you get up, people are gonna be tougher and tougher to play against,” Thompson said. “I think it’s just a test for me to see how I battle through it.”
A Tough Shot to Stop
Thompson’s potent shot may be the most noticeable part of his game, and it was on display this past weekend in two games against Ohio State. He scored three power-play goals in the series, including two in the first ten minutes of Saturday’s game, the second coming on a rocket from the top of the faceoff circle. Of Thompson’s seven goals this season, four have come on the man advantage. This after he led the country with 13 power-play goals as a freshman last season.
While it’s clear the 19-year-old excels on the power play, he is far from a one-dimensional player. Thompson has already scored three even-strength goals as a sophomore after netting just one all of last season. The lanky forward skates well, especially for a player his size, and plays on the penalty kill.
“He’s so dynamic on the power play because he can just wire the puck,” UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “But he’s really turning into…a 200-foot player that can play in all three zones and have an impact on the game.”
Thompson’s College Progress
Cavanaugh said Thompson has developed “a ton” at UConn, and his stats also show improvement. After notching an impressive 32 points in 36 games as a freshman, he’s scoring at an even faster pace this season, leading the Huskies with 14 points through 11 games.
“I think I’ve gotten used to the pace a little bit better. Last year, you know, I was struggling a little bit with the bigger, stronger guys,” Thompson said. “This year I think I feel a lot stronger and quicker, so, I think those are the two biggest things I notice (that have changed in my game). I still can obviously get a lot stronger and faster.”
A product of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, Thompson said his need to add weight and strength motivated him to play college hockey, and his play for the Huskies has not gone unnoticed. Following his freshman season, the St. Louis Blues selected Thompson 26th overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft. The Blues traded up two spots to make the pick and selected him higher than any UConn player has ever been drafted.
Even though he just turned 19 in late October, Thompson has already built an impressive resume, but knows that his work is far from over.
“It’s obviously an honor to be drafted but it’s just another stepping stone in your career. It’s what you do after that really matters,” Thompson said. “It’s what I do these next couple years that’s gonna determine my future.”
Provided he maintains that attitude and continues to develop, that future could include Thompson wearing a Blues sweater sooner than later.
Jeff is a college hockey and Columbus Blue Jackets contributor for The Hockey Writers. He is a former TV sports reporter who has covered, broadcasted, coached and played hockey at various levels. You can follow him on Twitter @jeff_schaffer13