The Buffalo Sabres rising star continues producing points after switching to center
BUFFALO N.Y, (2/28/2022) - On Sunday's 4-2 loss against the Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson scored his fourth goal in the past four games and 24 points in the last 23 games. The 24-year-old built on his production after scoring his first career hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche.
Thompson currently leads the team in points with 39 and goals with 22. At first, Sabres fans didn't expect him to reach these stats considering the past three seasons he spent with the team. However, under the guidance of head coach Don Granato, Thompson proved he can be an efficient first line player and a franchise cornerstone for the Sabres.
The St. Louis Blues selected Thompson in the 2016 NHL draft after one year with the Uconn Huskies. Thompson lead the nation in power play goals with 14 and finished second on the team in points and goals.
After spending a year with the Blues AHL associate the Chicago Wolves, Thompson made his Blues debut in the first game of the 2017-18 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team then sent him to the San Antonio Rampage before recalling him in December of that year.
Thompson finished the season playing 41 games and scoring nine points on three goals and six assists.
In the 2018 offseason, the Blues traded Thompson, along with a Vladimír Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, a 2019 first round draft pick, and a 2021 second round draft pick to the Sabres in exchange for Ryan O' Rilley.
Thompson appeared in 65 games, racking up 12 points on seven goals and five assists before the Sabres sent him to its AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
While in Rochester, Thompson scored nine points on six goals and three assists. He appeared in one game during the 2019-20 season before being sent back to Rochester. He then scored 12 points on six goals and six assists.
In 2020, the Sabres signed Thompson to a three-year, $4.2 million extension. He showed potential in the shortened season, racking up 14 points on eight goals and six assists.
Ahead of the 2021-22 season, Granato decided to move Thompson from winger to center. a surprising move since Thompson hasn't played center since his days with the Uconn Huskies.
"If we can get him to play that position, it’s going to be impactful.," said Granato. "And he’s showing signs right away that are even more intriguing than I thought before I put him there.”
Since moving to center, Thompson said this new position helped him reach his full potential.
""I feel like I've always known that my potential's there and that I could eventually reach it," said Thompson. "He just, coming into the season, challenged me to go and reach it now."
Thompson used his 6-foot-7 frame to enhance his shot and play making skills, an advantage Granato wanted to work with.
"He's learned how to use his body," Granato said. "He exposes the puck less. I think a year ago, if you looked at clips, he exposed the puck so the guy didn't have to go through his body to get it. Now he's putting the puck, he's almost baiting them and then using his body, and then his hands come in."
Throughout the season, the Sabres put their new core of young centers against some of the best centers in hockey. In November 2021, Dylan Cozens scored two goals against Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid in the Sabres 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers.
Even though the team hasn't racked up many wins, the emergence of Thompson and Cozens give fans hope that with more talent surrounding them the team can possibly contend for the playoffs.
Earlier in the season, Thompson said how his progress since switching to center, makes him ready for any matchup thrown at him.
"Just kind of be a little cocky, a little arrogant," he said. "Not, obviously, off the ice, but play with that swagger and that confidence. It's just something I've tried to take into every game. Obviously he's got a lot of trust in me, he's been putting me in a lot of opportunities on the ice so I just want to do my part."