By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on October 8, 2019
Tage Thompson began the season with the Rochester Americans with the perfect mindset.
“I think you still have to earn it, and nothing is given. It’s nice knowing you’re going to get some opportunities, but with that being said, you have to take advantage of that and make sure that you’re working for those opportunities.”
In just nine regular-season games in an Amerks uniform, the third-year forward has proved that the opportunities he’s worked for are ones that he has earned in more ways than one.
Last year, Thompson spent a large majority of the season with the Buffalo Sabres in his second full season in professional hockey, making his debut with the organization on Oct. 4 of last season. In 65 games with the big club, Thompson notched an NHL career high in goals with seven while also appearing in his 100th NHL appearance nearly a month after debuting with his new organization. At just 21 years old, Thompson was accomplishing what some can only dream of doing and he was thriving at a level that allowed him to play with the best in the show.
WATCH: TOBY PETERSEN AFTER MONDAY'S PRACTICE
Fast forward to five months after Thompson’s Buffalo debut, and he’s reassigned to the American Hockey League to star in the final eight games of the Amerks’ regular season. For the first time since his stint with the St. Louis Blues organization, Thompson was back to a level of play he hadn’t seen in over a year. At a time like this in any athlete’s career it would be easy for someone like Thompson to get easily discouraged and to cash it in for what little was left of Rochester’s season. Instead, though, Thompson came ready to go for every single game in the red, white and blue and continues to do so just one game into Rochester’s 64th AHL season.
Following the home opener at The Blue Cross Arena just last Friday night, Amerks interim head coach Gord Dineen emphasized the challenges that Thompson has been faced with when being placed with the Amerks to start out the year.
“He was challenged when he came here to play a game that translates to consistent time in the NHL and certainly his ability is NHL caliber. It’s just playing a game that’s going to consistently get him in a lineup up there and play key roles up there and he’s certainly done that with us.”
Challenged or not, Thompson has proved that he has come to make an impression in his little time in the Flower City time and time again. Dating back to his Amerks debut just last March, Thompson has tallied up 11 points with eight of those points coming from goals – two of those goals netted in Friday’s season opener. Impressive for a guy who’s just 21 and even more impressive that almost half of his AHL markers have been knocked in during his last nine games of AHL play – which doesn’t even include his 2019 Calder Cup Playoff statistics.
On Friday, Thompson, who has a natural instinct to shoot, played on a line with Rasmus Asplund, who looks to pass a lot, and Remi Elie, who is consistently strong on the puck. While each brings something unique to the line combination, the trio felt as if they had much more to give then their first game during the new season showed. The group seemed to show the chemistry that all three young forwards need in order to have success together, but it was the maturity in self-expectation that set Thompson aside from the rest. Despite the scoring touch that he provided on opening night against the Syracuse Crunch, Thompson was more focused on cleaning up his play than notching the game-winner in overtime.
Following practice Monday morning, assistant coach Toby Petersen described Thompson’s maturity level that comes with always wanting better no matter an overtime game-winning goal or not.
“That’s a sign of maturity, he had the big night on the scoresheet. He had the big goal at the end of the game, but he’s still not satisfied. I love seeing that in players and I think that will lead to big things for him throughout his career.”
With Thompson having played 106 games at the highest level of the game, it seems as if big things are already on his horizon. Other young forwards such as Asplund look to pick the brain of other young guys that have seen time in the NHL, Thompson being the prime example with beginning only his third year in the professional circuit and already over 100 NHL games under his belt. After seeing the success that Thompson has had in such a short amount of time, it’s no surprise that his “strive for a better attitude” seems to be rubbing off on other young players in the Amerks locker room.
WATCH: RASMUS ASPLUND AFTER MONDAY'S PRACTICE
Asplund also collected two points in Friday night’s win, but more importantly, he took note on the mindset Thompson had after his two-goal performance with wanting to always strive for better.
“Both me and Tage weren’t one hundred percent happy with our game on Friday and that’s good. We each put up two points and we just want to get better every day. We want to keep developing and keep getting better. It’s a great mindset to have.”
One game down and just 75 more to go in the Amerks’ 2019-20 season. Even though it may be the start of a brand-new beginning for most, it seems as if opening night indicated that Thompson is continuing his prolific end to last year’s campaign. With a player averaging almost one goal a game in a Rochester jersey, Thompson’s time in the AHL may just be limited this season.
Focusing on the now, though, Thompson is accepting his role playing in Rochester, racking up the points and knowing that the Buffalo staff and management have his best interest at heart.
“I’m a player and they make the tough calls. That’s not easy for them to do and my job is just to go wherever I’m told to play and do the best that I can. I’m excited to be down here and help the team win."
However long it lasts, so is all of Rochester.