OTTAWA -- Lassi Thomson could be a missing piece for the rebuilding Ottawa Senators.
The 18-year-old defenseman's impressive vision and skill were major factors in the Senators' decision to select him with the No. 19 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
"I think my skating and offensive plays -- how to make plays in the offensive zone -- I think that's the biggest thing I've got to show to the coaches," Thomson said at Senators development camp in June.
The focus for Thomson (6-foot, 190 pounds) this season will be in the gym and on the defensive side of the puck. Ottawa would like to see him more capable of handling the physical part of the game.
"He's someone that obviously has to get stronger physically, but that's easy for us to say," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said after the draft. "Besides his offensive ability, he's someone that brings a high compete level, and we feel that he's going to be an all-around, good defenseman."
Video: First Look: Lassi Thomson
Thomson had 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 63 games with Kelowna of the Western Hockey League last season and was named WHL Western Conference Rookie of the Year.
Though his official commitment has not been announced, Thomson and the Senators believe he'll play this season for Ilves in Liiga, the top league in Finland. It might be the perfect fit for him; playing against men will serve as preparation for turning pro in North America, and he can do so in his hometown of Tampere.
Ottawa is looking for Thomson to fill its need for another blue-chip prospect on the right side of its defense. The future of the left side appears to be set with Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolanin each developing at an encouraging rate. Dorion said with Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, a 19-year-old selected with the No. 26 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Senators are looking "pretty good for down the road" on the right side.
"He can move the puck, obviously with his skating ability, but he can move it with his passing ability," Dorion said of Thomson. "And at the same time, the way he transitions into the offensive zone and the way he jumps into the play to create offense were all things that we are happy to have."
Senators chief amateur scout Trent Mann said he thinks Thomson's qualities fit in perfectly with the current pace of the NHL.
"Let's face it, defensemen are part of the offensive game now," Mann said. "Teams play with units of five now, it's not units of three, and that's what he does. He's able to move the puck, transition the puck up ice quickly, and he's able to support the play, and he has upside at the offensive blue line.
"Those are the defensemen that have an impact on the game now."
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