A lot of parallels can be drawn between former London Knights center Bo Horvat and 2017 draft eligible center Robert Thomas. Both were considered to be mid teen prospects going into the OHL playoffs on most NHL draft lists…but as scouts saw more and more of what they could do in big games they climbed into scouts’ top ten rankings.
Thomas has been sensational for London in the playoffs, and while he’s not producing at the same clip and scoring as many clutch goals as Horvat did in 2013 in leading London to the OHL championship with 16 goals, scouts are already more comfortable with Thomas’ overall skill package as there are no question marks with his skating. Horvat on the other hands wasn’t thought to be overly agile or quick at the time…however nobody could discount his clutch playoff performances, and Vancouver stepped up and grabbed him ninth overall. Time has shown that the skating concerns were overblown, as Horvat won the fastest skater category at the NHL All Star skills competition and improved his skating immensely.
Thomas may not possess Horvat’s goal-scoring prowess – certainly he’s not as hungry to score and more inclined to set up plays – where he does draw comparison though is in his ability to win the absolute trust of his coach Dale Hunter to be played in every and all important situations at such a young age. Power plays, penalty kills, 4-on-4, up a goal, down a goal, key faceoffs…he has surpassed Cliff Pu as London’s most effective pivot and now centering London’s top line with Kuokkanen and Stephens…setting up the latter for the winning goal in OT to send London’s series with Erie to a Game 7 winner take all.
As one NHL scout said the other night when he texted me inquiring whether I was watching London…”Thomas…wow. Gets better every game. Great hands and hockey sense.”
Much like Nick Suzuki, scouts have come to appreciate Thomas the more they see him. With his smarts, skill and competitiveness, he simply does not have off nights..he comes to play and makes things happen every game, be it offensively or defensively. A 200-foot player that will be able to play any role asked for him in the NHL…just like is happening in London with a coach…who knows a good player when he sees one.