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Baker's Top 31: #26 Robert Thomas

Kris Baker counts down the top 2017 NHL Draft prospects

by Kris Baker @SabresProspects / SabresProspects.com

Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago. 

Position: Center 
Team: London (OHL)

Playing in a high-profile situation with the defending Memorial Cup champions, Thomas shined this season as an adaptable two-way player with soft playmaking hands and an insatiable desire to get to the net off the rush. They have some differences to their game, particularly in the defensive zone, but Thomas often conjures up images of former London centerman Bo Horvat (VAN) as he efficiently patrols the full 200 feet of ice.

Thomas was moved up and down the Knights' lineup in 2016-17, including some brief platooning at right wing, finishing the year with 16 goals, 66 points and a plus-41 rating in 66 games. He won 57 percent of his draws, and with the mark of a pass-first player with several offensive options down the wing, averaged just under two shots on goal per game.

Thomas continued to impress in the playoffs, amassing three goals, including an overtime game-winner to force Game 7 in their first-round victory over Windsor, and 12 total points as the Knights battled through a pair of seven-game series before falling to eventual league champion Erie.

There will be plenty of two-way "Swiss Army Knife" type of prospects available to draft late on Day One and into Day Two, but not all possess the intriguing offensive potential of Thomas. While he has worked to be an effective defensive player, Thomas may just be scratching the surface of his offensive game. Scouts know about his remarkable vision and instincts, but Thomas could reasonable double his goal output over the next two seasons once he completes the puzzle by pulling the trigger more often. 

Until then, the versatile Thomas will do what it takes to help his team win games, making him a desirable commodity with a great deal of NHL upside.

For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).

<< #27 Jake Oettinger | #25 Shane Bowers >>

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