BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Just two days left until the season opener at the KeyBank Center, and the lineups are starting to take shape. Tage Thompson has been seen on the first lines skating with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall a lot in camp.
“I know they are both fast players and obviously very talented and offensively gifted,” Thompson said. “I think my job is just to play my game. I think I bring a lot of size and speed and I got a pretty good shot so I think my offensive instincts are along the same lines as theirs in terms of where to go on the ice, so I think just kind of getting open and winning puck battles and getting the puck to them and kind of letting them do their work and find open spots to get shots off.”
Thompson has skated with Eichel in the past, and that chemistry is only growing the more they’re on the ice together.
“Every time you’re out there, you’re a little more comfortable each time,” Thompson said. “I think the more and more you play with each other you kind of learn more about each other and their tendencies on the ice so it’s been good getting to play with him and getting that comfortability.”
Thompson returned from a season ending injury and left many questions coming into train camp this year, but he’s improved in these two weeks, and could start on the top line with the Sabres’ two stars.
“I think just being more confident,” Thompson said. “I think the more you start to play and start to get to know guys, I think you kind of relax a little bit and can just play your game and not think too much out there.”
Thompson said he’s grown a lot in the time off and in the early parts of training camp.
“I think overall strength,” he said. “Obviously put on quite a bit of weight, I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”
Although he missed almost all of last season, he still had time to get to know his teammates while he was recovering. That’s carried over into this year’s training camp.
“That kind of goes back to that comfortability thing,” he said. “Even though I’m not playing, I’m around the guys and getting to know guys a little bit better and I think when you’re in a comfortable environment you know guys better, you’re not as nervous around them and I think when you’re nervous and a little hesitant, it can affect your game on the ice and I think just knowing guys now, feeling more comfortable in the locker room, talking to guys and kind of speaking my mind is allows me to relax a bit on the ice now so that’s huge I think and in terms of development to I think being able to put on weight, getting a lot stronger I think is kind of a blessing in disguise that injury.”
Coach Ralph Krueger spoke highly of the winger and his performance so far in the preseason.
“Tage Thompson has had a terrific training camp,” Krueger said. “Again, we couldn’t quite guess where he would be after more than a year off and he has truly come in ready to grab a higher role and he will get that opportunity beginning on Thursday. We have a strong competition within the group and [Thompson] has earned the opportunity to play with Jack and Taylor at the moment and we’ll see how that goes but quite clearly we are pleased or he wouldn’t be in that spot.”