Thursday, April 15, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Logan Thompson knew he might be sacrificing the potential of a professional hockey career when he signed with Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, out of high school. Few players who attend college in Canada reach the NHL, and as an undrafted goalie with an unspectacular junior career, Thompson was already a long shot.
He has officially beaten the odds. Thompson has emerged as the best goalie in the American Hockey League this season for the Henderson Silver Knights, and he’s even had a taste of action with the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I always thought I had the potential and thought I was good enough,” Thompson says. “When teams were telling me I wasn’t good enough … and that I wasn’t going to sign an NHL contract, it was definitely disappointing and frustrating. [Brock University] gave me a second chance, and I fell in love with the game again.”
The Calgary native played his junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League—a team with strong VGK connections. Mark Stone and Ryan Reaves played their junior hockey for the Wheat Kings, a franchise formerly coached and owned by Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon.
Thompson didn’t exactly thrive there; in four seasons, his save percentage didn’t rise above .908. When he aged out of juniors in 2018, he didn’t receive any professional offers, so he signed with Brock, which competes in the U Sports classification in Canada.
His game then began ascending. After one season of college hockey, he garnered a pro offer and joined the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL.
“To see a guy go through the ranks and play major-junior like myself and [U Sports] and work his way through the pro ranks, it’s great to see,” says Silver Knights assistant coach Joel Ward, who played for the University of Prince Edward Island prior to 11 seasons in the NHL. “We’re fellow [U Sports] members, so I have a soft spot for him.”
Thompson turned in a strong 2019-2020 ECHL season in before the pandemic wrecked the minor leagues in 2020, leaving him unsure what might come next. Thompson retreated to Brandon, wondering if his pro dreams might have been extinguished.
The phone eventually rang—it was McCrimmon, his former junior coach, offering him a job. McCrimmon asked Thompson how soon he could be here; he responded 22 hours, the length of the drive from Brandon to Las Vegas.
“I always wanted to be a Vegas Golden Knight, so I took it without hesitating,” Thompson says. “When you sign that NHL contract, you’d do anything to get there. It could have been 30 hours, 40 hours, I still would have done it.”
Thompson’s signing barely registered around the league. He was a 24-year-old goalie who had never played in a league as strong as the American League Hockey, and he’d have to compete for playing time there. But Thompson seized the opportunity, earning the starting job with Henderson, which he hasn’t let go.
Through his first 15 games with the Silver Knights, he has registered a .948 save percentage and a 1.80 goals-against average. He was named AHL Goalie of the Month for February and March. And he’s the biggest reason Henderson has started out 18-6-0, the best record in the Pacific Division.
“As far as the success and how dominant he’s been, you’re taken a little bit by surprise,” Silver Knights head coach Manny Viveiros says. “It’s not just one game or a couple of games. He’s been good all the way through. There’s a pattern there, and hopefully he’ll continue having that pattern of playing really strongly.”
Thompson’s play also earned him a call-up to the Golden Knights, albeit briefly. Thompson dressed as an NHL backup February 27 in Anaheim and again March 10 against the Wild. When the Golden Knights went down 4-1 in the third period at Minnesota, Thompson’s journey hit its ultimate destination: He entered the game and played the final 8:15.
A player just two years removed from the Canadian college ranks was officially playing in the National Hockey League.
“Walking into the game and seeing that jersey in your stall was an amazing feeling,” Thompson says. “Getting to put it on for the first time is something you always dream about, something I’ve been working for my whole life. Being able to skate and look at the Minnesota Wild at the other end of the ice, I was very nervous and emotional. It was exciting for me.”
Thompson says he was “shaking” for the first five minutes, hoping to make a good first impression on the Golden Knights and coach Pete DeBoer. He succeeded, turning away both of the Wild’s shots on goal during his time on the ice.
Still, despite Thompson’s strong year, it’s tough to gauge where he fits in the organization’s long-term plans. Goalies typically take more time to develop than skaters, and Thompson has only played 15 games this year and 57 total since leaving college. Though he’s been successful throughout that span, it’s likely not a large enough sample for Vegas to consider him a long-term backup goalie option—yet. But Thompson’s level of play in the AHL certainly bodes well for his future.
He’ll likely be back with the NHL club as the regular season winds down and could receive more playing time if Marc-André Fleury or Robin Lehner needs rest or gets injured. But that’s a discussion for later. Right now he’s content being with the Silver Knights after his long journey getting this far.
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.