TCW 2018 NHL draft prospect profile #22: Akil Thomas

ST CATHARINES, ON - NOVEMBER 25: Akil Thomas #44 of the Niagara IceDogs skates during an OHL game against the Mississauga Steelheads at the Meridian Centre on November 25, 2017 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
ST CATHARINES, ON - NOVEMBER 25: Akil Thomas #44 of the Niagara IceDogs skates during an OHL game against the Mississauga Steelheads at the Meridian Centre on November 25, 2017 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Today, we put the spotlight on Akil Thomas. His skating and versatility is something to behold, even if there is some uncertainty on what position he will play in the future.

With the unexpected success of the Vegas Golden Knights, there is one thing proving universal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Speed kills. It’s not the first time I have discussed this and while the Vancouver Canucks are still rebuilding, they have rightfully placed more emphasis on speed.

Canucks fans can see this trait present among the younger pieces that will form the future. Bo Horvat is our poster boy for speed, as well as Jake Virtanen. Brock Boeser is not the fastest player, but made significant strides in his speed. Elias Pettersson‘s quickness and ability to create separation plays an important role in his offensive ability.

This brings me to Akil Thomas. In addition to his speed, his overall skating ability is celebrated among scouts. Furthermore, he’s not just fast in a straight line, but his agility gives him the opportunities to be a rover for the puck. It helps in his two-way game, something NHL coaches will love.

Although, speed isn’t his only positive attribute. Thomas is an incredible playmaker and his intelligence is yet another strength. Throw in his courage to take on players bigger than he is and you have a very intriguing player. We will break down his a game a little more down below.

The stats rundown

*Counting Stats provided by EliteProspects

Height: 182 cm/6’0″

Weight: 77 kg/170 lbs

Birthdate: January 2, 2000

Position: Centre

Handedness: Right

Team (league): Niagara IceDogs (OHL)

Rankings:

#17 by FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS

#27 by ISS HOCKEY

#18 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY

#15 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (North America)

#20 by Craig Button

#25 by Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects)

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Akil Thomas had a good year to say the least. As a part of a stronger Niagara IceDogs squad, Thomas started the year on the wing, but eventually earned his coach’s trust to play down the middle.

The IceDogs put down the Oshawa Generals in the first round of the OHL playoffs, but fell to the eventual OHL Champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Through 10 postseason games, Thomas had five goals and six assists.

With those boxcar scores out of the way, let’s take a brief look at some other stats. Niagara was just outside of the top 10 in 5v5 GF% (50.45). Using that as our baseline, Thomas had a GF% of 57.41 and a relGF% of 10.88. This means that Thomas wasn’t carried by his linemates. He is very much a driver of offence, even if goal-scoring isn’t his greatest strength.

With this in mind, he still produces approximately eight shots for every 60 minutes of 5v5 play. Thomas also has a decent points per hour rate of 2.71 at even strength.

Scouting reports

Mark Scheig, The Hockey Writers:

"We have one of the best overall playmakers in the draft. He uses his combination of skating and soft hands to make the right play. He’s willing to shoot from anywhere on the ice. He’s more willing to dish the puck to teammates and isn’t afraid to drive the net when the opportunity is there. (…)He is a tireless worker who is always striving to get better at both ends of the ice. In live viewings of him, he was out in all situations, including power play, penalty kill and end of game. He can effectively play both as a center and on the wing. (…)Thomas is also an effective defender because he understands positioning well. But given the size concerns, I’d like to see him win more battles for pucks."

More from The Canuck Way

Steve Kournianous, The Draft Analyst:

"He is used in all situations, but he is most dangerous on the power play thanks to his keen vision and ability to pump shots through traffic. (…) He is used to take big draws, kill off an important penalty or run the offense from inside the zone during late/close situations. (…)Thomas has good straight-line speed and average first-step quickness, but he is elusive and agile within tight spaces. (…) He’s a cerebral player and an excellent stickhandler with soft hands who positions himself properly to exploit mistakes in the neutral zone."

Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey:

"Thomas adds strong edge work and very good agility. He is very dangerous off the rush, as he can beat defenders in a variety of ways. Whether it is with quick movements, or with changing speeds, he is able to get by his man and weave through traffic. (…)While he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Thomas has shown some scoring instinct. His wrist shot is average, though he has improved the power a bit as the season has gone on. The release is relatively quick. (…)"

What we think

Akil Thomas has certainly piqued my interest. Cam Robinson describes him as a buzz-saw player, which is exciting to hear. His game blends multiple styles together and I am impressed by his skating and offensive instincts.

It’s also promising he can use his skills in the defensive zone, despite having a size and strength disadvantage. However, he can develop the latter of those two things over the next few years. Work ethic can be an understated trait since it’s hard to quantify.

However, I do appreciate how hard Thomas works to make himself better. Some players at this age feel they don’t have to do anything more and can get by on their skill alone. As you have seen in NHL history, that is not always the case.

Next: Anders Nilsson increases trade value at Worlds

Of course there are a few question marks. I’m not concerned about his size, but many see him as a winger in the long term and not a centre. If a team is drafting for position (which is usually a mistake), then I could not guarantee that Thomas is a centre. Additionally, strength is a very noticeable deficiency. Thomas has the frame to be a very robust player in the future. It will take a lot of work to get there, but if there’s anyone who can do it, I think it’s Akil Thomas.