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Meltzer's Player Profiles: Nate Thompson

Center Nate Thompson stepped into a fourth-line and penalty killing role for the team prior to the NHL's schedule pause

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

Acquired by the Flyers from the Montreal Canadiens on trade deadline day (Feb. 24, 2020) in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2021 Draft, 35-year-old center Nate Thompson stepped into a fourth-line and penalty killing role for the team prior to the NHL's schedule pause for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the trade to the Flyers, Thompson chipped in 14 points (4g, 10a) and appeared in 63 of 64 games for Montreal. He played the same role for the Habs as he has in Philadelphia -- and for most of his career. He is good on faceoffs, an experienced PK forward, and is an old-school type of checking liner who brings tenacity and physical play as two of his prime traits. 

Thompson dressed in seven games for the Flyers, registering one assist and nine penalty minutes. He sustained a sprained knee on March 10 in the Flyers' 2-0 home loss to the Boston Bruins. The injury prompted the team to recall Connor Bunnaman from the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Bunnaman had been returned to the Phantoms at the time of Thompson acquisition. 

One of the few silver linings to the NHL pause was that it gave injured players time to heal. Thompson has since been medically cleared and is back to 100 percent health. He will be available immediately if and when the season resumes.

Thompson hails from Anchorage, Alaska. He is close friends with retired Flyers Alumni defenseman Matt Carle (a fellow Alaskan) and knew James van Riemsdyk from playing summer hockey together in Minnesota. On a leaguewide basis, Thompon is a well-liked player off the ice. He has worked to overcome off-ice issues and takes nothing for granted on a day-to-day basis. 

Thompson, who makes a $1 million AAV on his current contract, can become an unrestricted free agent after the current season. He will turn 36 on Oct. 5.

 FIVE KEY FACTS

1. While with Montreal this season, Thompson averaged averaged 12:48 of ice time, including 2:15 of penalty killing time. With the Flyers, he has averaged 12:37 TOI, with 2:09 coming on the PK. Albeit over a seven-game time frame, Thompson's average PK time per game leads all Flyers forwards this season (Sean Couturier is second at 2:02).

2. The Flyers were already the NHL's No. 1 faceoff team before the acquisitions of Thompson and Grant. In his seven games as a Flyer, Thompson has won draws at 53.7 percent rate. Breaking it down further, he has won 56 percent of the faceoffs he's taken in the defensive zone. Overall, Thompson has taken 54 faceoffs in his stint with the Flyers.

3. Has been credited with 15 hits (10.18 per 60 minutes) and nine blocked shots (6.11 per 60 minutes) as a Flyer. 

4. Dropped the gloves with Washington's Tom Wilson in the first period of the Flyers' 5-2 road win over the Capitals on March 4.

5. As a Flyer, Thompson has an on-ice 41.96% Corsi/ 43.06% Fenwick at 5-on-5, and an on-ice 49.26% expected 5-on-5 goals across his seven-game sample size per Natural Stat Trick.

TOP HIGHLIGHTS

1. March 5 vs. CAR (4:28, 3rd period): Thompson's first point as a Flyer was the lone assist on Nicolas Aube-Kubel's second-chance bank shot tally that restored a two-goal lead for Philly shortly after the Hurricanes had narrowed a 2-0 gap to a single goal. The play started with Thompson collecting a gifted Canes turnover right out in front of the net and getting a scoring chance of his own. The rebound went to Aube-Kubel, who was denied on the initial follow-up but banked in a second shot. The Flyers went on to win, 4-1.

2. Nov. 4, 2020 @ WSH (17:01, 1st period): Thompson did not back down from a tough customer in this behind-the-net bout with the Capitals' Tom Wilson after a hit by Thompson on Nick Jensen. Thompson did not "win" the fight per se, but he created a power play for the Flyers as Wilson -- who by rule should have instead gotten an instigation minor plus 10-minute misconduct -- was dispatched on a roughing minor apart from the matching fighting majors with Thompson. 

THEY SAID IT

"He gives us another element where maybe we can spell G a little bit on the PKs. win some faceoffs....He is a gritty player."

-- Chuck Fletcher, Feb. 24, 2020


HE SAID IT

"I think [my role] goes without saying. I have been around long enough. My role has never really changed. [Chuck Fletcher] told me to come in and be myself and play the way that I have played and continue to do that, and everything will fall into place."

-- Nate Thompson, Feb. 24, 2020

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