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THOMPSON BELIEVES THERE'S MORE SIZE TO COME

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Chalk it up to an ironic twist of fate that one of the last college programs Tage Thompson visited prior to making a commitment nearly two years ago was also the one that made its home on the same rink where he skated for the very first time.

Thompson's father, Brent, was a physical defenseman who played for three teams in the NHL in 14 professional seasons from 1991-2005. For two of those seasons, he was a member of the American Hockey League's Hartford Wolf Pack, which played its home games at Hartford Civic Center.

It was there that Tage skated for the first time as a youngster. Nearly two decades later, the building is now called the XL Center and houses the University of Connecticut's hockey team, which two seasons ago transferred from the Atlantic Hockey Conference to the more competitive Hockey East Conference.

After his late visit to Connecticut, Thompson decided he'd call the XL Center his home, too.

"I fell in love with the campus and coaching staff, wanted to be a part of something new and build a program from the ground up," Thompson said at the NHL Scouting Combine on Saturday. "I knew I was going to get a lot of opportunities there and it's worked out for the best."

Now, Thompson finds himself in another selection process, only this time it won't be him making the decision. Coming off of 32-point campaign (14+18) as a freshman in the NCAA, the 6-foot-5-inch forward is eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.

His size is an essential part of his game – he describes himself as a skilled power forward – but for as tall as he is, he's also lanky. Part of the purpose of the NHL Combine is to allow teams to get an idea of room for growth in prospects like him, both physically and mentally.

In Thompson's case, they were certainly curious. He was one of the few players on Saturday who said he met with all 30 NHL clubs over the course of the week at First Niagara Center.

Thompson says he currently weighs 190 pounds, but adds that he projects to play in the range of 215-220. Once he does fill out, he said, it will add an extra dimension to his game. He models his game after players like Jamie Benn, Corey Perry and Jeff Carter.

"I think I'm starting to grow even more and fill out my frame," he said. "I think once I reach that potential, I'll be able to fend defenders off in the offensive zone and use my body in front of the net."

He'll have his chance to prove it, but with 30 potential suitors, it's anyone's guess where that opportunity will come. Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com has Thompson ranked at No. 25 on his Top 30 list of prospects eligible for this year's Draft.

Not that not knowing what's next should bother Thompson. He followed his dad from Hartford to Louisville, from Louisville to Hershey and so on. He looks at his nomadic lifestyle growing up as an opportunity not many people get to experience.

Call it one of the perks of having an NHL dad.

"He's got a lot of tips and life lessons for me," Tage said. "It's going to do nothing but help me."

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