Akil Thomas is a driven kid.
Not only has he completed high school and taking college classes already, he started a clothing line in his spare time. All of this while tearing up the OHL as a playmaking centre who likes to shoot the puck as well. He’s a leader on and off the ice while presenting some really encouraging underlying numbers.
Thomas is ranked throughout the second half of the first round in public rankings but we feel he has enough jam to his game to warrant this 15th overall spot.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.70/ January 2, 2000
- Birthplace: Brandon FL United States
- Frame:5-foot-11/ 170 lbs
- Draft Year Team: Niagara IceDogs(OHL)
- GTHL Top Prospects Game
- OHL Cup All-Star Team
- OHL Cup Most Points (13)
- OHL Cup Silver Medal
- OHL Gold Cup Champion
- OHL Gold Cup Most Points (11)
- OHL First All-Rookie Team
- Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal
Akil Thomas was selected 12th overall in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft and made the IceDogs out of camp the following fall. He scored 48 points in his rookie season to set a franchise record for most points by a rookie and finished second in OHL rookie of the year voting, losing out to defenceman Ryan Merkley. Thomas was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team for his efforts.
Despite being born in the United States, he represented Canada at the U18 World Juniors as a 17-year-old and then once again at Ivan Hlinka. His performance at Ivan Hlinka was a great leaping off point for him this season as he posted two goals and four assists in five games en route to a gold medal.
Lastly, he posted five goals and six assists in 10 games for Niagara in the playoffs before he joined Canada (again) for the U18’s this past April.
I would expect him to be in the conversation to represent Canada at the U20 World Juniors this winter in Vancouver.
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Thomas rates well in SEAL, INV%, and XLS%. His GF% of 57.0% and GFRL:% of 9.2% show that Thomas isn’t just an offensive player and can be effective in the defensive zone as well.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
No concerns here for Thomas – he played well throughout the entire year with consistent production. There are some concerns about his consistency on a night to night basis, but overall his production doesn’t indicate long periods of poor play.
He saw a great burst of production in the middle part of the season and saw his 5v5 ice-time slowly climb as the season went on. He is right in the middle of 5v5 eP60 production despite being the youngest of that group.
Based on his production, 42.0% of his cohorts went onto becoming NHL regulars with a production of 42.7 points per 82 games. There is a wide range of players in there but that is great value for a player like Thomas.
His impressive production during his rookie season in the OHL during his draft minus one year showed a 36.6% success rate among cohorts.
Akil Thomas is a fun player to watch.
He is dynamic with the puck and plays at a high pace and compete level (when on his game). His acceleration, top speed, agility, and edge work is fantastic with the ability to adjust his lanes, trajectory and speed at the drop of hat. He will then quickly speed back up from a stopped position. Thomas can control the puck with ease with all these movements and doesn’t give up the biscuit easily.
The IceDogs center is tenacious on the puck, willing to battle through players in the offensive zone to make things happen. When opponents try to be physical on him, he works through it, takes the puck away, and then moves it to his teammate. If that isn’t available, he will just deke around the defender to keep the puck himself. He is all about puck position and creating offence in any way possible. His standout skill in this area is a quick stick lift, steal, and leave that check in the dust.
That ability to quickly steal the puck and then get it away from his opponent before they can react is really impressive.
His shot is quick, deceptive and accurate. He isn’t afraid to shoot often and from anywhere with a big draw out and drag to adjust the release point. He is also very good at making a few moves/dekes and then quickly snapping it before the goalie can set. That skill is readily apparent in shootout situations.
From a playmaking angle – Thomas uses all those puck skills to dance around defenders and then thread a saucer pass to his teammates.In transition, he combines that possession with is speed to find gaps in coverage, he draws opponents to him and then flips it over to a wide open rusher.
He is extremely effective on the powerplay as he can fill a variety of roles. Place him on the half boards and he will have the puck run through him. Place him in front and he will use his active feet and quick hands to get second and third chances. That versatility allowed him to produce throughout the entire year with the man advantage.
Thomas ranked 3rd among first-time draft eligible OHL players in points, points-per-game and primary points-per-game behind Andrei Svechnikov and Evan Bouchard.
In the defensive zone, I’ve found Thomas to have his good moments and some bad moments. When he is active in his backcheck and placement in his own zone, he uses those quick steals and movements to steal the puck and transition out quickly. When he isn’t doing that though, he can float and blow the zone quickly. Overall, I have found his defensive zone play to be adequate and should not be something to be overly concerned about as you don’t want to crush his creativity and dynamic offensive game. Just a little more reliability.
It speaks to the consistency issues that have been apparent in his game as well. When he is on, he is that super fun and energetic player that makes his impression on every shift. When he is off, he can disappear into the shadows. He improved in that area as the season went on and played well in the playoffs.
He held his own in the dot, going 53.43% in faceoffs during the regular season.
He is one of the best playmakers in this draft class and due to his goal totals, it’s fair to suggest that underrated shot may get overlooked. Ideally, we would see more shots, more compete, and more consistent play but they aren’t areas that raise red flags in terms of overall evaluation. He does all of those things fine but to take that next step forward, those are the areas he can work on.
If he does take that step, watch out, as he may present the potential to be an offensive firecracker in the NHL.
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Thomas is a quick, game-breaking offensive talent…skating ability is top-notch; the acceleration and top-end speed he can generate from his first few steps allows him to beat defenders around the edge and pounce on loose pucks…his ability to carry and control the puck at top speed is impressive…his puck control also can lead to some eye-popping moves, and he dominates one-on-one situations with a combination of skating, awareness and stickhandling ability…for a smaller player, he’s also quite good at protecting the puck; his patience and vision with the puck…intense and relentless around the net…a magnet on the puck…a very deadly shot with firecracker release…not currently strong enough to be a presence in board battles, but he’s not afraid to go after bigger players in the corner and initiate contact on the forecheck either…he needs to be more dedicated in his own end, as he often springs the zone and hopes for a Hail Mary pass instead of coming down into his zone to support his defenders…has the potential to become the complete offensive package in the NHL.
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CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings