24Lassi Thomson
Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets

Flames 2019 First Round Targets: Lassi Thomson

In 2017, the Calgary Flames drafted an offensive-minded Finnish defender playing in the Western Hockey League with their first round pick. Could they do it again in 2019, in the form of Kelowna Rockets defender Lassi Thomson?

Scouting report

As a late September 2000 birthday, Thomson is among the oldest first-time eligible players in the 2019 NHL Draft class. He’s a right shot defender listed as 6’0″ and 190 pounds. Originally from Tampere, Finland, he played his minor and junior hockey with the Ilves system – his hometown team – before coming over to the Rockets in the 2018 Import Draft.

Jokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects broke down Thomson’s game:

Thomson left Finland to play for the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL, and so far that decision has looked good for him. He had a great start to the season offensively but has slowed down a bit since then. He gets to play good minutes with lots of power play time which suits his strengths as an offensive defenseman. He’s not big but he has a big shot from the blue line. And it’s not just a heavy shot, it’s pretty accurate as well. His playmaking abilities aren’t quite as good but they’re pretty good as well. He’s also developed a lot as a skater this season, and it’s a strength for him now. That skating ability allows him to be a good transitional defenseman. His defensive game needs a lot of work before he’s ready to play in the NHL.

In Thomson’s one visit to Calgary this season, he had his pocket picked by Hitmen forward James Malm while being a little bit too casual in his own zone. It led to a goal against.

Bill Placzek of DraftSite had this assessment of the Finnish blueliner:

A mobile defender whose polishing his passing and zone entries in hopes of progressing to the NHL as an eventual power play Quarterback. Has displayed fearless in the defensive end, willing to block shots, or step up in the opposition as they try and gain ice. Very aware of his positioning in his end or when he adjust into open ice going the other way. Always moving his feet and has a good short area burst to get to loose biscuits, and his stickhandling allows him room in traffic. Displays an excellent stick to break up passes, and although his creativity is just emerging, he is very good at laying precision passes on his moving in down deep in the attack zone. And his shot from the point is already coming at NHL velocity. A bit of a riverboat gambler. Still developing but may be second round consolation prize. Cool and collected and improving nicely.

Thomson is sort of the opposite of Edmonton Oil Kings defender Matthew Robertson. Robertson is a defensive beast with no panic in his game who has understated offensive potential, while Thomson has high-end offensive potential, but can be a bit jumpy and his defensive work is a bit of a work in progress. He’s somewhat like Oliver Kylington when he was drafted – great skating and super offensive instincts, but not quite a complete package (yet).

The numbers

As an 18-year-old WHL rookie, Thomson had a productive offensive season. Among WHL defensemen he was 21st in points and tied for third in goals. Among draft eligible defenders, he was second in both points and goals. The only player ahead of him was Bowen Byram, who’s likely going to go top four in the draft – granted, Byram was way ahead of every WHL defender offensively this past season.

Availability and fit

Based on projections, Thomson will be available when the Flames select at 26th overall: ISS has him outside the first round, Dobber Prospects has him 38th, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 42nd, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 36th, Sportsnet has him 27th, The Athletic has him 42nd and 39th, and The Hockey News has him 36th.

Is Thomson a bit of a reach? A little bit. He’s an incomplete player. That said, he’s young and going back to Finland to play pro hockey next season – barring the NHL team that drafts him imposing a different plan. The Flames need more right shot depth on the blueline to complement Juuso Valimaki, Rasmus Andersson and Kylington, and Thomson might be a good fit. The Flames have recent experience working to round out Kylington’s game and they may feel confident that they can do it again with Thomson.

2019 first round targets

Egor Afanasyev | John Beecher | Tobias Björnfot | Bobby Brink | Simon Holmström | Pavel Dorofeyev | Anttoni Honka | Ryan Johnson | Spencer Knight | Brett Leason | Connor McMichael | Ilya Nikolayev | Jakob Pelletier | Samuel Poulin | Patrik Puistola | Matthew Robertson | Nick Robertson

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  • freethe flames

    Again another player that screams for BT to add some 2nd rounders. Again as I have said a couple of times drafting this late in the first round gives us about a 50% chance of getting an NHL player. While I hate the idea of giving up another 1st round pick if the deal was right I would move this pick. None of the players we have been profiling suggest a strong NHL prospect. How many times have people said a bit of a reach, get some 2nd rounders; this is another case of this.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      I would do any of those trades but I wonder which of those teams would. Carolina might as they are closer to being a contender, but those are two pretty good picks that might be more than #26. What if we had to sweeten it? Would we give our 3rd? 4th?

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I might be in the minority but I think we have to let our scouts do their job. I am not sure we could say that trading our firsts for Hamilton and Hamonic has catapulted our rebuild. It is true that they were and are trade chips but it could be argued that we lost out on some top prospects that if developed puts us in a better cap situation.

      Personally, I think the average skill level continues to climb year after year. Prospects have to show a pro mentality from diet, to training, skill development if the want to succeed. This has not always been the case.

      • freethe flames

        JJF after watching Moneyball for the first time since it was in theatre and knowing some scouts and having done some scouting and recruiting at the university level in another sport I know one thing for sure. Most of the time scouts let their emotion get in the way of making informed decisions; once you fall in love with a guy; it’s hard to convince you otherwise. Between 2010 and 2016 the most guys drafted (210 per year) that have turned into NHL player was 47 in 2012. That’s around 1.5 per team. In 2013 and 2014 it was 30 and 29; that’s one per team and the vast majority of them came in the top 20 picks each year. Scouts do find gems that is for sure but more often they find rocks. You are right these young men are coming better trained and conditioned than ever before but the numbers have yet to bare out that they are making the show at any higher rate than the past. The current pro’s are staying in better shape each year as well.

        At 26 I am all forward to listening to the scouts and then using that information and the stats on drafting making a good choice. If a guy you really believe is going to be an NHLer is there then go for it but if you can get a player that fits an immediate need I think you have to consider it. I also want to say I am for trading away drafts for the sake of trading away draft picks.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          FTF: Great insight. I agree that there is a trickle down effect with the younger generation pushing the old guard….Gio and Frolik are conditioned machines. That is a scary number that only 1.5 player per team make the show. So 2015 has the potential to be a great draft, Tkachuk, Dube, Fox are going to be NHLers and the jury is out on Parsons, Tuo, and Phillips.

          • freethe flames

            Of course Fox is now elsewhere. But if any of the latter 3 you mention become NHler’s then it was a great draft.Think aboiut how good the draft year was with Ras and Kylington working out.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          You would have to think there will be a player like Suzuki, Tomasino, Lavoie or Knight will be available at 26. I am pushing for Tomasino after hearing that he is very comparable to Barzal. Is it worth dangling something to move up to ensure we get on of these players?

          • freethe flames

            I know that it might sound like I am anti draft; but I am not. What I really think is that you have to prepared to have the conversations. This team is currently very close to being very good but It has some serious flaws but the draft won’t solve those immediate flaws. Even if we hit on 40% of our draft guys being pros(lets say 1st and 3rd rounders) turn out to be players the likelyhood is 1st rounder is 2/3 years away and the 3rd rounder is 3/4 years away. By then some of the guys who have us hopeful will be gone or on the way out.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            I think you have given this a lot of thought which makes for engaging conversation. It is always fun to be able to follow our drafted prospect in their respective leagues and World championships but your point that these players won’t help in the Immediate future.

          • freethe flames

            If we were able to get up to say Flyer’s pick at 11 or Montreal’s at 15 my mindset would be more towards using the pick. But the Flames in the 20’s scares me.

  • calgaryfan

    right shot defenceman that can skate who needs to work on his defence, sounds like one of the better possiblities presented by Mr. Pike. Most young defenders need to work at their defensive zone play. Like that he can move the puck and has an NHL shot.

    • Beer League Coach

      Also sounds like the description of Al McInnis back in his draft year. As a rookie Al made the Flames as a PP specialist and only played a defensive role late in a game when the game was either hopelessly lost or safely in the bag. Al learned to play defense as well as offense and as I recall he was one of the finest D men in the league the last half of his career.

  • Em Durp Em Hrudey

    No thanks. Lassie is a horrible name for an NHL player. ” come Lassie, her Lassie, good boy Lassie”. “What’s that Lassie, Timmy feel down the well!”