By Jason Shaya
If you put all the characteristics deemed vital into a single hockey player, you’d probably list skill, size, grit, tenacity, and heart. As a player develops, most tend to exhibit some traits over others. In the end, a hockey player’s game is defined by what makes them special. Devils prospect Tyce Thompson has the potential to embody all those important qualities and do it at the highest level.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Thompson is the son of a former hockey tough guy and current head coach of the Bridgeport Islanders, Brent Thompson. With 121 NHL games played to his credit, Brent spent the majority of his 14-year career in the AHL. He once logged 311 penalty minutes in 67 games for the Louisville Panthers during the 1999-00 season. Basically, that’s a fight each game. Imagine someone who averaged a fistfight for every day he went to work? Now, imagine that guy was your dad. Tyce was too young to remember his father playing pro hockey, but he’s seen clips on YouTube. So, when Tyce drops the gloves in games, it’s not surprising to learn he’s taken a page out of Brent’s book.
“My dad has the biggest influence and impact on my career,” said Tyce. “Growing up he was playing and then coaching so I was always at the rink with him. He played with a lot of passion and energy, so I think those two things I try to bring to my game as well. He was always on the ice working with me on skills and my game from the time I was little until now. So, I definitely owe him a lot of credit to any success I have ever had.”
But Tyce’s willingness to be physical is only one aspect of his game. When he was at his peak form this season, he averaged a point per game helping the Comets to an incredible record along the way. It was no surprise when Tyce was recalled to the Devils. Shortly thereafter, an injury blunted much of his season. Instead of getting games in the best league in the world, he was sidelined. Eventually, Tyce returned to action in Utica and over 16 games, he registered 15 points (6G, 9A). It’s a glimpse of what he can do on the scoresheet each night. He can score goals in various ways and he isn’t afraid to get to the hard areas of the ice; paying the price to contribute offensively.
Comets head Coach, Kevin Dineen said that despite the bumps in the road with injuries, Thompson has a bright future. “Tyce had challenges early in the year with his health situation and played an incredibly recognizable physical style,” said Coach Dineen. “He has the ability to have a long, healthy career in a power forward role.”
As Tyce heads into the summer, he knows forward progress is necessary to take a spot with the Devils. “This summer I want to continue to work on my on-ice skills but the biggest area I need to focus on is my strength,” remarked Thompson. “I want to come to camp being in great shape and feeling strong on the ice. I think that will give me a good opportunity to being a full time NHLer.”
Considering what he has displayed thus far in the early stages of his professional career, it won’t be a surprise if he finds his way to the NHL and has an impact during the next chapter of New Jersey Devils hockey.