One night after the NBA Draft festivities saw UConn's Daniel Hamilton selected to the professional ranks, the NHL Draft's first round Friday night may fulfill the pro aspirations of another Husky star.
Rising sohpomore Tage Thompson is projected by many outlets to be a first-round pick after posting a very impressive freshman season at UConn. He finished second on the team in goals, assists, and points behind another freshman, Max Letunov, a 2nd round pick by the St. Louis Blues in 2014. Letunov's rights were recently traded to the San Jose Sharks.
Thompson's 13 power play goals were tops in the country, and his 19 power play points were good enough for third in all of Hockey East. The Connecticut native also had some of his best games against top competition, notching a hat trick in a win over No. 7 BU and scoring two goals in a home win over No. 5 UMass Lowell.
His father Brent played briefly in the NHL and is currently head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders' AHL affiliate.
"It helped a lot having a father that played the game," Thompson said via conference call. "He's been around the game his whole life and knows what it takes to get there."
Standing 6-foot-5, Thompson has an ideal frame for a forward at the next level. He still needs to bulk up though to better prepare for his sophomore season and eventually the NHL. Listed on UConn's roster at 185 pounds, Thompson says he's now up to 195 and is targeting around 200-205 pounds.
"I've been training all summer at UConn," he said. "I'm focused on getting stronger adding some weight.
Starting his college career at 17 years old certainly presented a wake up call once the season started as he skated against players who were much older.
"I've been a late developer which is why I went the college route," he explained."It was a bit of a wow factor, going up against 24 year old men."
Thompson credits head coach Mike Cavanaugh and the Husky coaching staff for showing faith in him despite making some mistakes in the early going.
"I think just trusting me," Thompson said of the staff's role in his success. "I was young, we had some growing pains we had to work with along the way. That they kept giving me chances was the biggest thing for my development."
Thompson has made his way into the first round of many mock drafts, including USA Today (26th - Washington Capitals), Sports Illustrated (23rd - Florida Panthers), NESN (29th - Boston Bruins), Yahoo Sports (27th - Tampa Bay Lightning), CBS Sports (28th - St. Louis Blues), NHL.com (29th- Boston), and TSN (24th - Anaheim Mighty Ducks). If these projections ring true, Thompson would become UConn's first first-round pick.
Though he will be one step closer to the NHL after this weekend, Thompson is looking forward to his sophomore campaign, where he sees big things happening for the Husky program.
"We were a little inconsistent last year... We had a young group, but we're more experienced. I think we've got some guys coming in that are gonna help us out a lot. We should have a really strong year."