When it comes to projecting the Ottawa Senators’ blue line in the next two-three seasons, the left side obviously includes stalwart Thomas Chabot and 2020 fifth overall selection Jake Sanderson who’ll arrive from the University of North Dakota full-time for the 2022-23 campaign, if not sooner.
On the right should most-assuredly be 25-year-old Artem Zub who’s in the midst of a breakthrough freshman campaign and Sanderson’s UND teammate Jacob Bernard-Docker.
There’s also Erik Brannstrom who’s capable of playing on either side of the Senators’ back end. Brannstrom currently patrols the left side of the team’s blue line, but also played on the right in Belleville, the Senators American League affiliate.
One player who hasn’t garnered much attention in terms of chatter to be considered part of the club’s future roster is Lassi Thomson.
The Senators’ 2019 first-round pick returns to Canada after playing parts of two seasons for Ilves in the Finnish professional Liiga. The Tampere, Finland resident previously skated for the Western League’s Kelowna Rockets, the team from which the Senators selected him 19th overall. Thomson compiled 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 2018-19, earning Western Conference second-team all-star honours.
Having played only one season in Kelowna, Thomson opted to play for his hometown club, Ilves rather than remaining with the WHL team as a 19-year old. At the time, the d-man said it was due to having an opportunity to play in a top men’s league.
The six-foot,192-pound d-man dressed for only 39 of 58 games in his first pro season, mainly due to injury, notching seven goals, six assists. Thomson’s pro debut was a memorable one, scoring two power play markers.
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) June 22, 2019
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Due to the delayed start to this season, Thomson remained with Ilves on loan by the Senators, adding two assists in 18 games prior to attending training camp in late-December.
It’s tough to say if Thomson made the correct decision to head to Finland rather than playing in Kelowna last season. Due to Covid, the league was forced to cancel their season March 23. While his ice-time dwindled as the season wore on for Ilves, the six-foot, 192-pound rearguard had an opportunity to play with older and stronger players.
Thomson is certainly a work-in-progress adjusting to the North American style of play. Belleville’s head coach Troy Mann provided some constructive criticism of his game to Full Press NHL this week, but at that the same time recognized Thomson’s potential.
“He needs to be more consistent in is play. It’s not unusual for a young defenseman, his age, specifically when they come over from Europe with the bigger ice surface. I truly believe that’s played a role in some of his decision-making, where it almost looks like he panics with the puck. But I do believe as he grows into his role and the league in general, I think his decision-making will certainly improve, said Mann.”
“But there’s lot’s to like in terms of skating ability, his nastiness. He’s certainly fearless. But we’re probably putting him in spots right now, quite frankly, that he’s not quite ready for. I can use the first power play as an example right now. I would prefer he’d probably be anchoring the second power play and gradually become the first unit power play guy towards the end of the season or even next year. The way our defense core is set up at the moment, we believe he’s our best offensive option. There’s no Erik Brannstrom’s, Jordan Murray’s right now”
Out up to four weeks, defenseman Olle Alsing was slated to quarterback the BSens power play.
For the most part, Thomson has actually performed quite admirally. Paired with Hubert Labrie, the 20-year old has three assists in seven games, firing 11 shots on goal, and is a minus-1 on a team that’s 1-6-0.
🚨Egor Sokolov bangs home his second of the season!
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 6, 2021
Thomson admitted in his own way to Full Press that he’s still adapting to the speed of the game on the smaller ice surface, “There’s a lot of happenings. You don’t have much time. Everything happens so fast. You have to be ready at every moment. My first game was pretty hard. I’m getting better. Moving forward, I think on this ice, things happen so much faster. It’s going to take time, but I’m pretty comfortable with that.”
As Mann mentioned, Thomson displays a physical side to his game – something the blue-liner enjoys, “I like to hit guys, so that they don’t get the puck. Hitting is part of my game. I try to work at that.”
Now with Belleville, former Ottawa Senator D Cody Goloubef is getting a first-hand look at the youngster. And Goloubef has come away impressed, “He’s good. He’s raw. He works hard, a good skater, good skills. He’s moving along the right way. I think he’s going to be good.”
Playing only 36 games this season with no playoffs, Thomson will require at least one more campaign in Belleville before the organization determines a path for his future.