In his debut season with the Anaheim Ducks, 30-year-old Alaskan native Nate Thompson made his presence felt in the faceoff circle as well as on the defensive side of the ice.
Now let me take a minute and say that I must mention that Natey has earned a very unique place in my heart, and it is largely thanks to my older brother, who swears that Thompson is the most reliable player in the NHL15 videogame. I am also very happy to vouch for this digital reliability.
In the virtual realm, Thompson has one mode: beast mode. When every other player on the ice looks like they are skating through mud, good ole' Nate straps on the rockets, and somehow pots some of the most unbelievable top shelf sniper-style goals that even a digitized Corey Perry fumbles.
Over the past two seasons in the NHL15 game, Nate Thompson has posted 20-25 goals and roughly 50 points each season.
Admittedly, his videogame dominance does not fully translate into real-time NHL games in terms of offensive production, but there's another half of the ice that the "Alaskan Assassin" does tend to slay.
All too often the statistics from the faceoff circle get overlooked in favor of the more basic goal-centered statistics or the new "advanced stats" involving shot attempts and such.
But let's keep this simple.
Thompson should take up even more of a permanent residency right around the faceoff dot. Through the 2014-15 season Nate took the third most faceoffs on the team with 1056 (behind Kesler's 1664 and Getzlaf's 1249), and had the second best percentage of those three faceoff staples winning 52.8% of the draws (Kesler won 56.3%, Getzlaf won 50.6%).
In his first season with Anaheim, he took more faceoffs than any of the other seven seasons of his career thus far, and posted his win percentage since the 10-11 season.
Furthermore, Thompson shouldered an impressive amount of work on the penalty kill, and among Anaheim's forwards he clocked the second most ice time per game behind Kesler. Yes, ladies and gents, Thompson played more penalty kill minutes (total and per game) than the likes of Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, and even resident speedster (and one-man penalty killer), Andrew Cogliano.
All in all, Thompson contributed so much more on the ice than the basic statistics give him credit for. Between his faceoff prowess and his defensive dependability, Thompson has become a key shutdown component for the Ducks.
|2104-15 Regular Season||Anaheim Ducks||NHL||80||5||13||18||39||0|
|2014-15 Playoffs||Anaheim Ducks||NHL||12||2||4||6||6||+5|
When you think of the Ducks the first faces that cross your mind are usually the likes of Getzlaf, Perry, maybe Kesler, Cam Fowler, or Frederik Andersen. Where does Thompson fall on that list? He's probably close to the 12th to 15th name to cross your mind.
Now it's almost fun to look closer at what an important, underrated, fly-under-the-radar sort of threat he became for the Ducks during the 14-15 season.
Of his five regular season scores three of them were game winning goals, which ranks him tied for fourth most game-winners on the team. To put this into perspective, the other players who have as many or more game-winning goals on the team had at least 14 goals in the season (Kyle Palmieri).
Thompson plays the style of hockey that requires a lot of work, and usually not a ton of recognition, making him one of Anaheim's unsung heroes.
But as long as the "Alaskan Assassin" continues to work as hard as we all know he can, and continues to help Anaheim both defensively and in the faceoff circle, his videogame scoring skills can stay in NHL15 for all I care. His contributions are so much deeper than simply putting the puck in the net, and as much as he may not be one of Anaheim's most recognized players, he has proven his worth and dependability enough for me to sing the heroism of this unsung hero.