If the Canadiens are looking to draft a somewhat underrated centre with top six potential, then Robert Thomas is a player they should strongly consider if he’s still on the board. Robert took advantage of the increased ice time due to London Knight’s teammates’ injuries to improve his stock in this year’s draft. Once he showed what he could do, Thomas became a center that his coach trusted in all situations in any game, with or without the puck.
DOB: July 7, 1999
NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters): 22nd
TSN (Button): 46th
TSN (McKenzie): 21st
ISS Hockey: 21st
Hockey Prospect: 23rd
Future Considerations: 33rd
McKeen’s Hockey: 15th
Thomas scored 66 points in 66 games in his second year in the OHL, more than quadrupling the 15 he scored as a rookie. As a sophomore player for London, Thomas managed to move up the depth chart and flip flopped as the team’s first or second line centre for different periods of the season. Given he did this as a 17 year old with a couple of other older forwards at centre is impressive. To add to that he was the team’s leading scoring centre, 3rd on the team in scoring, and tied for 2nd in scoring during the playoffs.
Robert’s game is very multi-faceted. He is an excellent skater, with both good acceleration, agility and speed. His puck carrying skills are outstanding as he combines very good hockey sense to provide elite playmaking abilities. Robert looks to pass more often than shoot as his 50 assists indicate but he does possess an accurate wrist shot. His defensive game is excellent, one of the best in the league especially considering his age. His skating and anticipation lend well to him being an superlative penalty killer, and in even strength situations Robert neutralizes his opponent with his hockey smarts and aggressive forecheck and backcheck. He also managed to win more than 50% of his faceoffs, a skill any team would like to add to their lineup.
Thomas remains an excellent NHL prospect but not one that should be immediately ready to play in the pros. He sometimes over handles the puck, and he could work on his slap shot or develop a snapshot, so he gives himself more shooting options. He is a little undersized which may be one of the reasons his draft ranking slates him in the bottom half of the first round. At the NHL Combine he was listed as 5’11.5 inches and 192.5 pounds. Like most underaged prospects, it would be prudent for him to play at least one more season in juniors, and perhaps two to improve his strength and other deficiencies. When he’s ready, given his other talents he could easily begin his pro career as a 4th line centre or winger, given his strength at the defensive side of the game. Ultimately he should gravitate towards a 2nd line centre, a position he has all the tools to excel at and a first line centre role is not totally out of the question.