He calls it a good fit.
Jack Thompson calls his skating ability and hockey IQ his biggest assets and getting traded to the Soo Greyhounds is an opportunity to play in a system that suits his style.
And that style is one he’s very familiar with.
“Obviously playing against the Sault so much in my years in the OHL, I know the way they play,” Thompson said. “I enjoy how they let their D go up in the rush and play that offensive-style of game. Just knowing that I could fit into that system was pretty cool for me.”
The Greyhounds acquired the veteran defenceman from the Sudbury Wolves in the hours leading up to the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline in exchange for forward Marc Boudreau, defenceman Jacob Holmes and a draft pick.
Though he describes himself as a two-way defenceman, Thompson says “the thing that separates me is my skating and hockey IQ.”
“I like to use my skating to my advantage and I like to play offence,” Thompson said. “All of that combined with the Sault system is going to be a good fit.”
The 19-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning prospect said his defensive game has shown improvement in recent seasons and is something he has consciously looked to enhance in his game.
“When I was younger, learning how to play defence, I had some great coaches that helped me do that,” Thompson said. “Being in Tampa in the summer helped me develop that part of my game. That’s probably the biggest thing for me was working on my defensive side of the puck, keeping players to the outside. That’s a big improvement that I’ve had.”
Selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL draft, Thompson called being drafted by the Lightning “a surreal experience.”
“It’s something that you dream about when you’re a kid,” Thompson said. “To go to Tampa and having them win two Stanley Cups in a row is pretty special to be a part of that organization. Going there and seeing how first class it is and how they treat their players and the development staff there is unreal.”
For the Greyhounds, adding Thompson gave the team one of the OHL’s top defencemen.
“He can play a ton of minutes,” Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis said. “There were two defencemen in the OHL that were invited to World Junior camp. We had one (Ryan O’Rourke) on our roster and we had an opportunity to acquire the other one (Thompson). Not to say it’s all about the World Juniors, but that shows you the kind of world-class talent we’re talking about.”
“In Jack’s case, being a captain, he can play on the power play and penalty kill, he can score five-on-five and defend,” Raftis also said. “If you look through the trades, there wasn’t a whole lot of defencemen moved. We wanted to improve our back end and we did with somebody that can calm things down when things get scrambly.”
Having attended a training camp with the Lightning, Thompson said the experience was one in which he was able to take away some valuable lessons.
“There’s a lot that I took in from that camp,” Thompson said. “I got to play in two preseason games in Tampa with the big dogs from the Lightning after they had just won the Stanley Cup. Seeing how they prepare off the ice for games and how they prepare on the ice both mentally and physically, just being able to see that firsthand and then bring it back to junior hockey helps a lot.”
With the OHL season being cancelled in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, Thompson was one of a number of players in the league who traveled overseas to play.
The Courtice, Ont. product played 18 games on loan with a pro team in Sweden where he was able to play with two close friends in Ethan Cardwell and Blake Murray, who are also OHL veterans.
“It was a pretty good life experience going over there with two of my best friends,” Thompson said. “We had an apartment in a little town in Sweden. Being on our own for the first time was pretty cool. I had to cook for myself and clean and do all of that adult stuff so that was definitely new to me.
“On the ice, we had a great group of guys,” Thompson added. “The ice is a little bit bigger, so I could use my skating to my advantage more. It was a really cool hockey experience.
Thompson said having Cardwell and Murray there as well made the experience easier.
“It was a pretty good life experience going over there with two of my best friends,” Thompson said.
“I don’t think it would have been the same just being there by myself,” Thompson also said.
Getting the chance to play pro hockey for part of the season was a big factor in his development as well.
“Just getting to experience the bigger bodies and more experience players, they might not have as much skill as some other leagues, but they had the frame and the skating so getting used to that was the most important thing,” Thompson said. “Seeing that put into my head what I need to do to get better.”