Christian Thomas was just starting elementary school when his father, Steve Thomas, began his second stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 1998-99.
Growing up in Toronto, Christian would support his father and watch him play until his eventual retirement from the NHL in 2003-2004.
Now, fast-forward a decade since Steve "Stumpy" Thomas retired, and it is Christian who's aiming to have an NHL career of his own as a player with the Montreal Canadiens organization.
Since his emergence into the Ontario Hockey League, Christian's career to this point has often been linked to his father's career. Interestingly enough, after his 54 goal season with the Oshawa Generals in 2010-11, Christian and his dad Steve became the first father-son duo to score 50 goals in a single OHL season.
Just like his father, Christian has proven to have a knack for finding the net. His 95 goals over the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons came second to no one in the OHL.
As a member of the New York Rangers organization, Thomas played parts of two seasons with New York's AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale. With the Whale, Thomas would go on to have an impressive rookie season, scoring 19 goals and finishing with 35 points, good for 4th in team scoring.
Thomas went into his first off-season at the professional level, confident after a solid rookie campaign.
However, following a practice over the summer, Thomas received a phone call that he wasn't expecting.
"I was taking a nap after a day in development camp in New York and woke up to a lot of missed phone calls," said Thomas. "I answered one from my dad and he said if I had heard the news that I was traded, and he said Montreal and I couldn't be happier."
In exchange for Thomas, the Rangers acquired forward Danny Kristo from the Canadiens.
Despite his excitement upon hearing the news of the trade, Thomas admitted that after growing up in Toronto and watching his father don the blue and white, the trade to Montreal came as a bit of a surprise to the Thomas family.
After spending some time with the Canadiens during training camp, Thomas suffered an undisclosed injury that would delay his start to the season.
Following a practice this week with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Thomas spoke out about the injury.
"It's been frustrating so far, I've never really had an injury that has taken this long or been kind of lingering like this, but it's the things that you have to go through," said Thomas. "It's still going away now but it's starting to get better and I'm starting to get my game back."
Bulldogs defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, who also spent some time with Thomas during Montreal's training camp, discussed the importance of Thomas's offensive presence to Hamilton's lineup.
"He scores a lot of goals, I think he had almost 60 one year in junior, and that's been our biggest issue, putting the puck in the net," said Beaulieu. "He's a good look to have on the powerplay, he's another threat and he adds a lot of depth to our lineup, so we're fortunate to have him."
Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre also touched on the addition of Thomas to the lineup and what it will mean for the team as the season progresses.
"It's very encouraging, especially because we have to work hard for our goals," said Lefebvre. "To have him alongside Martin St. Pierre and to have him on the powerplay is a big plus for us."
Lefebvre also addressed that despite Thomas's lack of size (5'9,170 pounds), he is capable of creating space for himself with his speed and ability to generate scoring chances.
"Even if you're small, a smaller team, you want those guys to compete and find ways to go get the puck if they don't have it and when they do have it, not to get rid of it or to lose it or create turnovers," said Lefebvre. "I think we stress to the players that no matter how big you are, you need to compete."
Thomas and the Bulldogs, who have won the last couple of games since losing six in a row, will have the opportunity to make it three straight when they host the Syracuse Crunch at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Friday.
Thomas, who has one career NHL game under his belt while with the Rangers, talked about his expectations for this season and how he hopes to build on last season.
"Hopefully have a better season than last year, I thought that last year I learned a lot of things and being a rookie is tough in this league, it's a tough league, I was lucky to get called up," said Thomas. "Hopefully this year I can have a better year and get some time with Montreal."
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