Most Flames fans probably remember Patrick Thoresen as a part-time grinder who played for the Oilers and Flyers a few years back. Other might recall he suffered a truly horrible injury blocking a shot in Philadelphia before fleeing the NHL for Europe. The truth is Thoresen was probably a better player than he appeared during his cup of coffee in the NHL and he’s established himself as one of the best players outside the league since he bolted.
Some background information on Thoresen is in order before we proceed. An undrafted native or Norway, Thoresen nevertheless scored 30-goals and 73-points as an 18-year old rookie in the QMJHL. He followed that up with a 33-goal 108-point season. Despite a couple of notable seasons, he failed to catch on in North America, so he returned to Europe and popped up in the Swedish Elite League. In his second season in the SEL, Thoresen scored 17 goals and 36 points in 50 games as a 21-year old, good for second best on on his team, Djurgardens.
The Oil signed him as a free agent after that year and he appeared in mostly a third/fourth line role for Edmonton, garnering four goals and 16 points in 68 games as a rookie. He also spent some time in the AHL where he managed 13 goals and 26 points in 29 games. The Flyers eventually plucked Thoresen off waivers in 2007-08, where he continued to be used as a bottom-six plugger 21 regular season games. He would flee for the Swiss league that off-season, where he managed a team high 63 points for Lugano.
He moved onto Ufa Salavat of the KHL after that and started putting up even more impressive totals in what is the second best hockey league in the world. In 2009-10, he played 56 games, scoring 57 points. He bested that number this past season, finishing with 29 goals and 65 points in just 54 games (1.20 PPG). That was good for second most in the KHL behind teammate Alexander Radulov, who garnered 80 (the Preds sure could use him hey?). Jaromir Jagr finished eighth in the league with 51 points, by the way.
It’s not just nice counting numbers in other leagues that make the 27-year old Norseman interesting. Thoresen actually had noteworthy underlying numbers during his brief stint in the NHL, despite playing in largely a support role. In 38 games between EDM and PHI back in 2007-08, Thoresen ended up with a relative corsi of +12.8/60. That is despite playing against a decent level of competition and a difficult offensive-to-defensive zone ratio of 45.2%. It’s not the biggest sample to work with, but those are strong numbers for a young player to manage in less than ideal situations.
Of course, the reason he wasn’t all that hot a commodity after ’07-08 was a severe downturn in his offense, which is likely what convinced the league in general that Thoresen was probably out of his depth. The -10 rating probably didn’t help for a guy who was acquiring the "defensive specialist" tag. In truth, the percentages cratered on Thoresen that season: his one-ice SV% and SH% combined was 93.2 (!!), an extremely low number and one that was probably due entirely to variance given the low number of games played. A combination of a tough assignment and bad luck ended his NHL career just as Thoresen as becoming a useful player
Thorsen’s subsequent success elsewhere suggests he’s continued to improve since leaving. Aside from Jagr, other former NHLers he outscored in the KHL this season, were Alexei Morozov, Pavol Demitra, Joseph Vasicek and Mattias Weinhandl.
He is now 27-years old, so right at the peak of his abilities. As such, I think if the Flames are willing to look at less conventional avenues to improve the team going forward, they should consider gambling on Patrick Thoresen. He could be a cheap, but capable top-six option.