The St. Louis Blues made major news Tuesday afternoon by signing top prospect Tage Thompson to an entry-level contract. So, when should Blues fans expect the newest member of the Note to arrive?
There is a lot of excitement surrounding forward Tage Thompson’s agreement with the St. Louis Blues. It’s justified. Thompson was the 26th overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft and is a big centerman with a lot of scoring ability.
His talent is enough to get excited about. But, the celebration is also because this agreement is somewhat of a surprise. Thompson is only 19 years-old and just finished his sophomore year at the University of Connecticut.
When the 6’5”, 200-pound Huskie was drafted late in the first round, the expectation was that Thompson would be an asset to the Blues in the somewhat distant future. The selection seemed kind of similar to those of Jordan Schmaltz and Jake Walman. Schmaltz at least completed three years at North Dakota before signing his entry-level deal and Walman will likely graduate from Providence before he joins the Blues’ system. He is in the midst of his junior year.
However, this has now become much more of a Jaden Schwartz type of situation. And it’s not just because he is a forward like Thompson. The St. Louis Blues drafted Schwartz in 2014 as a college prospect but the Blues forward left Colorado College after his sophomore year to pursue an NHL opportunity.
Thompson will leave a rising UConn hockey program after gaining a lot of attention with his recent play. Thompson led with 19 goals and finished with 32 points in 34 games during his sophomore campaign with the Huskies. He was also a key member of Team USA in the World Junior Championships. His one goal and four assists in seven games helped the young Americans capture another gold medal.
Thompson’s entry-level contract will begin next season. Thompson will report to the Chicago Wolves according to the announcement.
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So, when can Blues fans expect Thompson to hit the NHL?
At 19 years-old, he surely still has room to improve. Scouts praised his size and power forward build entering the draft. I personally believe after watching the World Juniors that he could be even more skilled than what you’d normally expect from a power forward. There is no reason he can’t stay at center given his size and his recent faceoff work.
The Blues seem to be one of the more patient teams in the league in prospect development. Tage Thompson has a chance to be an exception. He has played well at every level and was a significant force against the best in the world at the WJC. He might be ready.
The St. Louis Blues could also be in need of more scoring next season. If next year is anything like what we have seen lately, the team will need it desperately. And if Thompson quickly produces in the AHL, the big scoring center could be just what the Blues need to compliment a player like Vladimir Tarasenko.
There is also the possibility that Tage Thompson never sees the Wolves at all. A good camp and team needs could lead the UConn standout down the Schwartz path: forgoing his final two years of college and heading straight to the NHL.
Tuesday’s announcement should excite Blues fans. At the very least, it speeds up his timeline. The St. Louis Blues may be gaining a strong, skilled player up the middle very soon.