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Prospect Update: Keaton Thompson
By Thomas Harrington
Keaton Thompson finished up his second season of professional hockey, spending the entire year with the San Diego Gulls.
Thompson played in a career high 64 games and scored five goals and 16 points. His five goals were a new career high for him, while his 16 points equaled his total from the previous season. Thompson has never been a big time point producer from the blueline, he topped out at 17 points in the NCAA. Instead, he’s always been known for his reliable defensive presence on the ice. Despite that, he still finished tied for third among defensemen in scoring on San Diego. Thompson was primarily used on the second or third pairings this season and played well in his own end most nights. He did have an ugly -12 rating, which was the worst among defensemen on the team, but that was largely a result of the team’s offensive struggles, rather than a commentary on his defensive play. While Thompson will never be a contender for the Norris Trophy, he’s developed into a solid defenseman in his own end of the ice. The easiest example of this is his 64 games played, which was third on the team and led all San Diego defensemen.
A year ago, the biggest thing I wanted out of Thompson was for him to play over 60 games and not spend any time in the ECHL. Well, mission accomplished in that regard. I also wanted him to increase his offensive production, and while he did score one more goal, his assists dropped by one leading to the same number of points, so his offensive output ended up being the same. I had an outside hope of him making his NHL debut, but that didn’t happen, and ultimately wasn’t all that surprising. The Ducks had to use several defensemen from San Diego last year: Andy Welinski, Marcus Pettersson, and Jaycob Megna. All three are further along in their development than Thompson is, so it’s unsurprising that those three got NHL minutes instead of Thompson. Finally, I wanted Thompson to just continue to improve in his own end and really become one of the go to players on San Diego’s defense. By leading San Diego’s defense in games played, he showed that he had become one of the more reliable players on the Gulls’ roster.
This coming season, I want Thompson to continue his growth as a defenseman. If he could play in more games, that would be great, but he played almost the entire season and injuries do happen. Given how he has improved in his own end and how many games he’s likely to play this season, I would like his offense to increase and for him to hit the 20 point mark. Finally, while it’s still an outside chance, I’d like to see him make his NHL debut. It’ll be hard, he’ll be competing against Pettersson, Megna, Welinski, and Jacob Larsson for playing time with the Ducks, but he’s going to need to start standing out from them if he wants a shot at the NHL. However, given his limited offensive pedigree, that will make it harder for him to stand out, but if he can increase his offensive totals, that will go a long way to helping him get to the NHL.
After being one of San Diego’s better defensemen, Thompson is closer than he’s ever been to the NHL, but he still may be a year away making his NHL debut. As usual, the Ducks have a glut of good, young defesemen, both in the NHL and AHL, making it harder for players to stand out and get a chance. Also, bringing in Andrej Sustr and Luke Schenn on one-year deals make it even harder. However, both of them will be free agents next summer, as will Korbinian Holzer, meaning that if Thompson can really stand out this year, he’ll have an excellent shot at making his NHL debut in the 2019-2020 season.
Thompson has one more year left on his entry-level deal and will be a restricted free agent next summer. Given how he’s progressed over his first two years in the AHL, I have no doubt that the Ducks will re-sign him to a short, two-way deal a year from now.
The next prospect update will be on Giovanni Fiore.
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August 13th, 2018