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Blues' Tage Thompson a big-time prospect

At 6-foot-5, center will provide St. Louis sizable advantage in future

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues first-round pick Tage Thompson was too young to remember his first encounters with the organization.

Thompson, whom the Blues selected with the 26th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft after trading up two spots, remembers some of the important details from when his father, Brent Thompson, was an assistant coach with Peoria, the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate, from 2005-09, and coached Alaska, their ECHL affiliate, to the Kelly Cup in 2011. Brent Thompson was a second-round pick (No. 39) of the Los Angeles Kings in the 1989 draft.

"I wouldn't say I remember a ton, but yeah, I was pretty young when I lived in Peoria," said Tage Thompson, who as a freshman at the University of Connecticut last season had an NCAA-best 13 power-play goals. "I was in third through fifth grade. I was a little bit younger, but yeah, I got to know a little bit about the Blues organization obviously when my dad was coaching in Peoria. It was definitely fun down there. I got to hang around the locker room quite a bit. I was down there all the time after games, during practices. It was awesome."

Thompson, 18, knows he was a rink rat. It was part of the process that helped him develop a love of the game and eventually make him a first-round NHL pick.

"Growing up a lot around the rink, but this is a little different now," he said during Blues development camp. "I'm the one that's skating and doing the training. It's been a lot of fun, learning a lot. I'm just trying to enjoy it, take it all in."

Video: 26th overall pick Tage Thompson on joining Blues

The Blues saw something in in Thompson's game that made them willing to trade the 28th and 87th picks in the draft to the Washington Capitals to move up to No. 26.

A versatile 6-foot-5, 185-pound center, Thompson was the first pick in a center-heavy draft by the Blues; six of their eight selections were centers.

"Tage is a big player," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said. "You don't usually get centermen [with] the height and the physical presence that he brings. He's a player that hopefully we have a couple of years to develop now ... we have a little bit more development time because we're going to be going through the college level.

"He's a player that our scouts feel that with his size, and he can bring a lot of speed, especially in the Western Conference, we're always looking for bigger players, especially up the middle and you don't see 6-5, 6-7 players up the middle too often. So he could be a guy that maybe it's a year, maybe it's two before we pull him out of college and he's ready to step in."

In addition to his power-play proficiency, Thompson was second at Connecticut with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 36 games.

Video: Tage Thompson on Day 3 of Blues Prospect Camp

"All in all I think it was a good first year, a good learning experience obviously playing against older guys, getting used to the pace of college," Thompson said. "I think that year was really beneficial for me getting the exposure playing against high-end players. I think heading into next year it should be an even better year now with that one year of experience under my belt."

Thompson said he models his game after Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry.

"I'd say I'm a big, skilled power forward," he said. "I have a knack for making plays, I see the ice really well, I have a pretty good shot and I like scoring goals. I think I bring a lot of offense to the table but also someone who can play the other end of the ice as well. That's something I'm going to bring to the table in the future."

The Blues are looking to fortify their future through the middle of the ice. They'll allow Thompson the necessary time to fully develop his game, and Thompson will continue to make the necessary improvements to one day repay the Blues for their move up to pick him.

"It shows that they had a lot of interest in me," Thompson said of the Blues. "It says a lot about how much they trust me and believe in me so I've just got to put in the work and prove them right."

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