Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings (50%) and the staff rankings (50%) to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 3, 2018, when the 2018-19 NHL season begins.
We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our sixth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Making his debut on the list at #10 is Akil Thomas.
Age: 18 (January 2, 2000)
2017-18 Team: Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
2017-18 Statistics: 68 GP, 22 G, 59 A, 81 P (Playoffs: 10 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 P)
Jewels Reader Ranking: 10
Jewels Staff Ranking: 11
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked
The Kings sure do have a way of having prospects slip down the draft to land square in their clutches. In 2017, it was Gabe Vilardi falling out of the top five and Jaret Anderson-Dolan slipping to the second round of the draft. In the 2018 draft, look no further than Akil Thomas for a potential second-round steal by the Kings.
Prospect watchers generally had Thomas positioned as someone who could go in the late first round. With several teams going off the board and making unexpected selections, however, the draft order got all mixed up, and Thomas fell to the second round, being selected as number 51 overall by the Kings on the second day.
Thomas, entering his third year with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, has caught the attention of Hockey Canada, skating with the U17 and U18 squads for the past two seasons. He was also selected for this summer’s World Juniors showcase, meant to highlight players in the mix for spots on the World Juniors team. Thomas pulled out after an injury during practice; the injury was minor, however, and stepping out of the showcase was merely precautionary.
He’s played in both rookie games so far in Las Vegas, and while he hasn’t made it onto the scoresheet yet (save for a penalty which had onlookers speculating if he’d been benched after taking it), he has been showing off one of the biggest reasons why the Kings drafted him: speed, speed, speed.
Like many young players, Thomas is working on shift-to-shift and game-to-game consistency, but is already well-regarded for his skill at distributing the puck, his on-ice vision, and his ability on the power play. Thomas already took a bit step forward, increasing his points output from 48 in his rookie campaign to 81 last season. When considering players who spent the whole season in Niagara, he led the IceDogs in points with 81 (Sam Miletic had 92 overall, split between Niagara and London) and is poised to play an even bigger role on the team this year. And despite his injury in the summer showcase, he should still be under consideration for inclusion on Team Canada’s roster for this season’s World Juniors tournament.
With a few seasons left in the OHL, Thomas still has tons of potential to unlock. Thomas could easily be a steal for the Kings, and his skill on his skates and with the puck made him a near-consensus choice to kick off our top ten in the countdown.