With the IceDogs eliminated by the Bulldogs this past week, Akil Thomas' season is over, and now is the perfect time to take a look at the potential first round draft pick. Thomas was ranked 29th in Sportsnet's March prospect rankings, 20th in Craig Button's latest draft rankings, and 15th on the NHL's North American skater's rankings, so he could be available when the leafs are up to pick.
Thomas is a right shooting center listed at 5'11 and 169 lbs.
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All numbers are from prospectstats.com. He also finished the playoffs with 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points in 10 games. I saw Thomas 3 times this year, once during the regular season and twice during the Bulldogs/IceDogs series, and he played pretty well in all 3 games.
He's a Good Skater
Thomas is a very fast skater, and he reaches that high speed in very few strides due to his quick acceleration. He uses this speed to create space for himself and his teammates in the offensive zone, and he is able to take defenders wide and blow by them. I'd describe him as an agile/slippery skater, as he's very hard to hit and gets through tight spaces seemingly untouched.
He's Good With the Puck
Thomas has great vision and hands, which allows him to be an excellent passer. He made several passes to his teammates that created scoring chances in the offensive zone. While he doesn't have an extraordinary shot (I'd call it average), he does shoot from good locations, mostly the slot (which you can see on his shot heat map at Prospectstats.com). His teammates try and get him the puck often, as he was the go to guy for zone entries whenever he was on the ice, another strength of his.
Thomas keeps a tight gap with his man in the defensive zone, giving him little to no space. He also has an active stick in the zone, keeping it in passing lanes and disrupting shot attempts, which helps force turnovers. He then uses his speed to quickly reach the puck and then can either skate or pass the puck out of harms way. He isn't super strong, due to his size (see below), so he can have difficulty with puck battles along the boards.
The 5'11 height and 169lbs weight listing looked generous to me, but hes still 17 so he's got plenty of time to grow and add muscle. The majority of players need to add weight coming out of junior anyway, so it wouldn't be something I'd worry about. He doesn't play much of a physical game, so it doesn't limit him in that regard, and I think being smaller actually helps him play his style of game, as it makes him harder to hit.
Overall I think Thomas would be a quality selection in the draft if the leafs were to take him. He's a solid two way center with speed that can catch opposing players off guard. He's got room to grow/improve (if he can add some muscle/improve his shot he could be a lot more dangerous), but after the first few picks in a draft who doesn't. Drafting Thomas would greatly improve the Leafs center prospect depth, as there isn't much to write home about in this area.