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Who is Christian Thomas? A profile on the newest Montreal Canadiens prospect

Acquired yesterday in exchange for Danny Kristo, Habs fans likely don't know much about Christian Thomas. We're here to help you out.

Christian Thomas in his only NHL game thus far, oddly enough it was in Montreal
Christian Thomas in his only NHL game thus far, oddly enough it was in Montreal
Bruce Bennett

Christian Thomas is the son of former NHL star Steve Thomas, a 400+ goal, 900+ point player who tallied over 1000 points in his NHL career including the playoffs.

To get some extra insight on Thomas, I talked to Joe Fortunato of Blueshirt Banter. Christian is smaller than his 5'11' father, measuring in at 5'9" and weighing in at around 170 pounds according to the Connecticut Whale. Thomas was taken in the second round, 40th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft after a 41 goal season as a 17-year-old, 20 more than anyone else on his team.

The year after he was drafted, Thomas once again massively outscored his teammates, this time with 54 goals, 21 more than any other teammate. His final year in the OHL was derailed a bit by a 10 game suspension, and apparently he could never really fully find his game. He still led his team in points, but the difference wasn't as big as in previous years.

In his first season as a professional, Thomas finished 21st in the AHL in scoring among rookies, which isn't very impressive overall, although he was tied for 7th among rookies in goals with 19.

Thomas was, however, the Rangers' top scoring prospect in the AHL; finishing 4th on the Whale in points with 35, behind AHL veterans Kris Newbury, Brandon Segal, and Logan Pyett.

His shot production was okay as a rookie AHLer with 148 shots on net in 73 games played, 2.03 shots per game. It's unclear if he has much more to give from that perspective, but his goalscoring level in junior would suggest that he does.

One thing that strikes me about Thomas is that in spite of his stature being very slight, he has been remarkably healthy in his career. In junior he missed a total of seven games in his final three years, and at least a few of those were missed while attending team Canada's selection camp for the World Junior Hockey championships two years ago, where he was in the final round of cuts.

Thomas also got his first taste of NHL action this season as well, oddly enough in Montreal. Thomas played 11.2 minutes at even strength on February 23rd, starting five shifts in the offensive zone and one in the defensive zone. His results weren't too impressive, with a -5 Fenwick and -6 Corsi, however he did register two shots on goal, and his most common opponents were the Brandon Prust - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta line backed by Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov. At that point in time, that line was by far the best possession line on the team, so he was kind of thrown to the wolves, not that we can learn much from one game anyway.

Outside of raw stats, we can look at what kind of game Thomas plays. When playing in the OHL, Thomas was consistently voted as being one of the most dangerous players in the league at the goal mouth, as he drives the net with aplomb, using his high end speed and acceleration to beat opponents to the puck.

He also finished among the top two in league voting for best shot, as he has an absolute cannon with a fairly quick release and good hands.

Thomas is said to have a high hockey IQ in the offensive zone, which allows him to find open spaces and make good reads with the puck. What he doesn't have though, is great defensive acumen. Thomas is an offense minded player, perhaps someone who could fit in on an exploitation 3rd line like the Canadiens may build around David Desharnais.

Comparisons to Brendan Gallagher, though, are extremely premature. It should be noted that Gallagher put up 117 shots in just 36 games, 3.25 per game compared to Thomas' 2.03, and Gallagher played on a far worse team, a team that scored 54 fewer goals.

What can you expect from Thomas this year? I would say that he'll be challenging Louis Leblanc as the top offensive call up from the Bulldogs, though if he's made huge strides this summer he may challenge for a roster spot.

Joe Fortunato did an interview with Thomas which you can read here.