St. Louis Blues: Tage Thompson Struggling, But Is No Bust

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Tage Thompson
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Tage Thompson /

The St. Louis Blues had high hopes when they selected Tage Thompson. While he has not raced out of the gate, there is no reason to not think the hype will eventually be real.

The St. Louis Blues are at an odd phase in their development. It is a spot that fans love and hate at the same time.

On the one hand, the team is being successful in the regular season. In true Blues fashion, how much that translates into playoff success differs year to year.

The bottom line is that the Blues are just good enough to end up in the middle of the pack or lower during the NHL draft. That’s good for the present team, but means you are not getting the cream of the crop in the draft.

The Blues have still drafted extremely well and are hoping some of those seeds are bearing fruit. One such example is Tage Thompson.

St. Louis took the tall forward with the 26th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Following the draft, he split time between the University of Connecticut and the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

Thompson was one of the most impressive players during the Traverse City Prospects Camp prior to the season. He also had a good camp and preseason.

So, it cannot be said that he did not earn his spot on the Blues to start 2017-18. This is not a scenario where the team just gave him a spot to justify their draft choice.

The flip side of the argument is that he is not one of those once-in-a-lifetime superstars. He is going to be a very good professional, but it will take some time. Even the most excited of us knew that, deep down.

The start to his NHL career has proven that idea. Through five games (four games played and one healthy scratch), Thompson has yet to register a point and is a minus-3.

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You can tell the skill is there. For a big man, he skates well, keeps his feet moving and is strong on the puck. He can handle the stick in tight quarters as well, which can be chalked up to being a good skater and then hitting a growth spurt.

His only problem is that he doesn’t have enough experience yet. Some players have that raw talent to overcome inexperience, such as Crosby or McDavid, but even they struggled going up against men as boys.

Thompson just has not yet found that groove. His game has not quite yet adjusted to the level he’s playing against.

For example, in the NHL you can’t get away with several reverses. Thompson did three reverses in a row in the second game of the season.

You get away with it a couple times due to your strength and speed, but eventually NHL defenders will stuff the switch or put you into the wall. Both have happened.

St. Louis Blues
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 10: Brady Skjei /

There should not be a ton read into the Blues scratching him against the Florida Panthers either. He was due for a rest and as Kelly Chase pointed out during the radio broadcast, sometimes seeing the game unfold without playing in it is beneficial for young guys. Sometimes you don’t really get a sense for the speed you need to play with while you’re in the thick of it.

The coaching staff is not giving up on him either. They just saw a need to take a little step back for perspective.

“I think we’ve been very conscious as a staff to make sure we’re not overloading him, but at the same time, young players need coaching and they need feedback,” Mike Yeo said to the Post-Dispatch. “So for me, that was an opportunity to talk about some of the things we’ve seen and give him a little tap on the shinpads.”

Yeo continued to explain they can see all the attributes. It is not going to simply fall into place at one time.

"“I think for Tage, when you look at his game there are certainly some examples of his skill set coming through. Obviously he’s big, he’s strong, great hands, and there are times it shows he’s still learning the game. That’s understandable. This is the best league in the world. (He needs) an understanding to move the puck a little bit quicker, make sure we’re not turning the puck over in some areas and obviously he’s an offensive guy, but when the offense isn’t going in the net for you, you have to make sure you’re not giving up anything against. When a young player like that is coming up and is as dominant as he’s been his whole life, those are things that maybe you haven’t had to think about and build into your game, and now you have to.” Mike Yeo,St. Louis Post-Dispatch"

Thompson is going to be fine. He’s going to have a good career and hopefully a decent rookie season. This slow start is just a bump in the road.

It would be interesting to see if Thompson might have gotten off to a better start if he was playing with a healthy Blues team. The Blues, as a team, have done a great job of everyone filling the void.

That said, Thompson has not had the most creative of linemates. No offense, but playing with Oskar Sundqvist and Magnus Paajarvi most nights is not going to provide him with much help.

Next: Blues Defense Coming Up Gold To Start The Season

Those are the sorts of things that happen in sports though. Sometimes you have to simply overcome.

If Thompson is held out of more games, then we might want to worry a little. He earned his spot and there is nobody performing at a high enough level to keep him out until more forwards come off the injured list.

For now, this is simply part of the overall learning curve. Thompson will be fine and a rest might be just what he needed to refocus.