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Akil Thomas was selected in the first round, 12th overall by the Niagara IceDogs in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft. After a strong rookie season where he scored 21 goals and 48 points for the IceDogs, Thomas has taken the next step this season. He put up 22 goals and 59 assists for 81 points in 68 games. He also added five goals and six assists for 11 points in 10 playoff games. Unfortunately, the IceDogs fell in the second round to their QEW rival, the Hamilton Bulldogs. One big change was that Thomas was used on the wing during his rookie season, but moved back to his natural position of centre during his second year in the OHL.
Thomas was also part of Canada’s gold medal squad at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, scoring six points in five games. He will again play for Canada at the upcoming IIHF Under 18 World Championships.
LWOH had the opportunity to interview Thomas recently. You can find that interview here.
Akil Thomas Scouting Report
Center/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born January 2nd, 2000 — Toronto, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 169 [180 cm / 77 kg]
Thomas is a speedster, he can absolutely fly. He reaches that top speed in just a few strides thanks to his excellent technique and acceleration. Thomas adds strong edge work and very good agility. He is very dangerous off the rush, as he can beat defenders in a variety of ways. Whether it is with quick movements, or with changing speeds, he is able to get by his man and weave through traffic. Thomas has a low centre of gravity, which gives him good balance but could improve this even more by adding muscle in the coming years.
Thomas maintains that top speed with the puck on his stick. Defenders must back off or risk getting beaten to the net. Thomas is a smart player taking advantage of this time and space to create passing lanes to teammates and set up scoring opportunities. He can also create space with very good stickhandling ability. At times, he can make too many moves and run out of space, but this is something he seems to be doing less of as the season has gone on. Thomas can also make plays on the cycle game. He controls the puck well down low and has the vision and passing skills to find open teammates. Thomas is poised with the puck and keeps his head up. He also plays the point on the Ice Dogs power play, excelling in the role of quarterback.
While he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Thomas has shown some scoring instinct. His wrist shot is average, though he has improved the power a bit as the season has gone on. The release is relatively quick. Thomas also needs to improve the power of his snapshot and slapshot. This could come with increased upper body strength.
Thomas plays a solid two-way game, as he hounds puck carriers on the backcheck, and then quickly transitions to offence. His defensive instincts were a bit of a question mark early in the year but have really improved as the year has gone on. This can be explained with the transition from win to centre. He has earned the trust of his coaches and is used in important defensive situations late in games.
Projection and Comparison
Thomas needs to make a few refinements in his game. He should continue to add strength to his frame, work on his shot, and move the puck a bit quicker at times. However, these are all areas that are fixable and coachable. He has high-end offensive talent that can not be taught to a player. As a result, he is a potential top-6 centre in the NHL. Thomas game is comparable to David Krejci, but this is a style comparison only and not one based on potential.
The following is a compilation of some of the many highlight packages of Thomas that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Main Photo: ST CATHARINES, ON – NOVEMBER 25: Akil Thomas #44 of the Niagara IceDogs skates during an OHL game against the Mississauga Steelheads at the Meridian Centre on November 25, 2017 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)