The Golden Knights, hours before they announced the firing of coach Pete DeBoer and began a coaching search Monday, watched a key component of their future compete more than 5,000 miles away.
It was hard not to be impressed with what they saw.
Logan Thompson, the rookie goaltender who battled from Canadian college hockey to the NHL, was playing with that same fire in his first international tournament. He made his second start for Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championship in Finland, making 34 saves in a 5-1 win over Slovakia.
It’s the continuation of a late-season run that saw Thompson nearly drag the Knights into the postseason. And that stretch has him confident he can fill whatever role is necessary next season. Even as a starter.
“I think I proved to myself, my teammates, the management that I can play at that level and be a No. 1 guy that we can rely on every night,” Thompson said after the Slovakia game. “Obviously, you never know in this business what’s gonna happen, whether I’m going to be a Golden Knights or a Silver Knight at the start of the year next season. But no matter where I am, whenever I put on the Golden Knight jersey, I give it all I got.”
Thompson has never lacked determination as he’s gone from undrafted to NHL goaltender. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be anywhere close to the position he’s in today.
He became the first U Sports — the national governing body of college athletics in Canada — goaltender to appear in an NHL game since 1994. DeBoer, in his final media session May 3, compared Thompson’s journey from Brock University in 2018-19 to his first Knights appearance in 2021 to a Summerlin softball league player reaching the majors in four years.
“Really,” DeBoer said. “It’s an unbelievable story.”
Then it kept getting better.
Thompson, 25, got his first NHL start Jan. 4 and started making regular appearances by March. He played in the Knights’ final five games after it was announced that goaltender Robin Lehner needed season-ending shoulder surgery.
Thompson saved 14 of 17 attempts in three straight shootouts in games the team needed to win to get into the playoffs. The Knights’ shooters went 0-for-17, and they were eliminated.
“I thought down the stretch LT battled for us really hard,” left wing Max Pacioretty said. “I think we could have used that as a little bit of a spark.”
Thompson finished with a .914 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average, the best numbers among the team’s three goaltenders in him, Lehner and Laurent Brossoit.
After the season, general manager Kelly McCrimmon told him that Team Canada was interested. Thompson, who had never represented his province, let alone his country, at the youth level, said he would go. Canada general manager Shane Doan called him a few days later.
Thompson is 2-0 with a .929 save percentage in Finland playing with Knights teammates Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Roy. He also made one of the saves of the tournament Monday, lunging across his crease after a puck was deflected in front to rob Slovakia defenseman Michal Ivan from the left circle.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) May 16, 2022
“I played starting goalie minutes (at the end of the season),” Thompson said. “I think I handled myself well. And I think I proved to a lot of people that I can take on that role and that responsibility.”