Ben Thomson: The Fourth Round Pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 NHL Draft

The New Jersey Devils selected Ben Thomson with their fourth round pick, 96th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. According to his prospect card at NHL.com, Thomson is officially listed at 6'3" and 205 pounds, he's listed as a left winger, he's 19, and he just completed his third season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. Here are his stats at Elite Prospects:

Thomson's no stranger to picking up penalty minutes. In fact, he finished tenth in the OHL with 137 PIM in the regular season. He's no stranger to getting physical and dropping the gloves. It is worth noting point totals rose in this past season and he had a good amount of production in the playoffs. However, I don't know if that's a sign of development or just a result that he's a year older and so his production just improved because he's got an edge over younger players. Incidentally, he is no stranger to prospect camp this summer as he took part of the Islanders' minicamp last summer. I guess he's got to have something for a NHL team to give him a shot after going undrafted last year?

I found a little more information on Thomson out there and I've added it after the jump.

As you may guess from the size and the PIM totals, Thomson is considered to be a grinder at best. Josh Brown said as much in this article in the Waterloo Region Record, when Thomson scored a goal on his stomach in the playoff against Plymouth. In this blog post about today's draft, Brown said Thomson got little pre-draft hype and that the player had talked to a few teams. I'm going to guess New Jersey was one of them since they did pick him.

I think the lack of hype for Thomson is justified. For starters, he's 19. He's a year older than most prospects and while his production improved, it wasn't enough to make anyone stand up and say "Check this guy out." It also hurts that he wasn't getting a lot pre-draft hype for the 2011 NHL Draft, when he was first eligible. He wasn't ranked highly at all by CSS last year when he was first eligible for the draft. Brock Otten at OHL Prospects noted that he fell to 149th among North American skater last year. That's really low. He did get moved up to 146th in this year's final rankings, though. Otten himself didn't rate him highly in 2011 as he ranked Thomson the 49th OHL prospect out there - noting his issues with skating and puck control as well as his general lack of improvement in his second OHL season. Otten didn't think enough of him in 2012 to have him on his top 50 OHL prospects or even his top ten overaged prospects. If outsiders who follow the league closely don't think much of him, it's difficult to think he's a prospect with a bright future. Even if he has a big 2012-13 season, it could very well be because he'll turn 20 and would be one of the older players in the whole league. At that age, you're expected to produce. It doesn't suggest much potential then.

I'm having trouble getting excited for this pick also because his main claim to fame seems to be fighting. The vast majority of video available about Thomson are fights. In fact, here's the lone goal of his I could find from this past season on Youtube; and it's a deflection. It doesn't exactly help me figure out what kind of player he is.

Everything else out there are fights. You may like fights, but from a prospect point of view, all it says is that he fights. Even if he fights really, really well and even if you may be really, really entertained, it says nothing about what he does in the actual run of play. Again, maybe there's some other video that shows him grinding or doing work in the corners or something.

I don't know, maybe there's something I'm missing about the guy, but I can't help but feel the Devils may have drafted a goon. And that's the sort of player that shouldn't be drafted. They're very common in the minor professional leagues and can be acquired cheaply. I think a pick would be better used on any other kind of player. A fourth round pick, early as it may be, isn't worth much so I don't think it's that big of a big waste. Still, I'm not a fan of this pick. Who knows, maybe Thomson will prove me wrong and show he's got some actual game. A grinder can at least play a little; maybe that's who Thomson really is.

Update: C.J. in the comments noted that Brock actually provided a description of Thomson on HF Boards. I found his post, so here it is:

I'm surprised Thomson got drafted. I don't think he's shown enough growth offensively to warrant a selection over where he was last year.

What you're getting is a big behemoth who can control the boards. His puck possession game in the corners and during the cycle is top notch. He's physical and will throw the body around, and is aggressive on the forecheck. Skating is OK for a guy his size. He's also defensively responsible. Offensively, he's basically a garbage goal guy. His shot, hockey sense, and puck skill lacks at this time, and I'm not sure it ever develops to the point where we're calling Thomson a potential scoring power forward.

Well, he's not as bad as I feared (a goon). I can better believe he's a grinding, energy-type player. This is a description more in line for a fourth liner than just a pair of fists. Still, that the very first sentence reads "I'm surprised he got drafted" helps prevent me from thinking this was a good pick - especially in the fourth round.

That's my take on Ben Thomson. Now I want to know yours. What do you think of Ben Thomson? Are you happy the Devils drafted this player? Is there anything about him that I don't understand or that I missed that could explain why the Devils picked him in the fourth round? What do you expect from him now that he's a Devils prospect? Please leave your answers as well as other thoughts about the pick and the player in the comments. Thank you for reading.

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