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The next Fleury? Knights rookie goaltender gets high praise

Updated February 3, 2023 - 6:50 am

Rookie Kaedan Korczak paid Logan Thompson perhaps the highest compliment a Golden Knights goaltender could receive in January.

“(He’s) kind of like Flower,” Korczak said.

Stylistically, the comparison makes sense. Thompson, like former Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, succeeds through his athleticism, competitive drive and sense of flair. He can get across his crease like Fleury. He treats practice as a battleground like Fleury. He will even put a little extra pizzazz into a great glove save like Fleury.

Their journeys couldn’t be more different, however.

Fleury was the No. 1 overall pick and made his NHL debut when he was 18. Thompson was undrafted and 24 when he made his first appearance in relief of Fleury on March 10, 2021.

Their divergent paths did lead them to one similar accomplishment. Thompson, after Fleury, will be the second goaltender to represent the Knights during NHL All-Star Weekend on Friday and Saturday in Sunrise, Florida.

It’s another amazing achievement for the rookie.

“I probably never thought I’d get to wear an NHL practice jersey,” said Thompson, who will turn 26 on Feb. 25. “It’s cool. I’m excited. I’m happy, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity for everything that’s happened.”

Thompson’s road to the NHL was long and winding.

Four years in the Western Hockey League. A stint at Brock University. A full season in the ECHL — the level below the American Hockey League — before signing with the Knights on July 13, 2020.

Yet, it didn’t take long for his new teammates to realize he could play. Captain Mark Stone said he came away from Thompson’s first NHL start Jan. 4, 2022, against Nashville thinking he could give the Knights a chance to win games.

And left wing Paul Cotter said: “Right away you could tell with him. He’s got something special for sure.”

Thompson validated that belief by going 10-5-3 last season. He played well enough down the stretch to give the Knights a chance to make the playoffs. The team entered this season confident in his ability, even knowing that goaltender Robin Lehner was going to miss the season with hip injuries that required surgery.

That doesn’t mean Thompson’s first season as a starting goalie hasn’t had its ups and downs.

His 19 wins are tied for ninth in the NHL. His .913 save percentage is above the league average of .906. But how he got to those numbers has been a journey.

Thompson had the NHL’s fifth-best save percentage in October at .943. That slipped to .909 in November and .905 in December before jumping to .908 in January.

It’s been a process for Thompson to adapt to the swings of an NHL season and the pressure that comes with it. He deleted several social media apps in December. He beat himself up publicly after a 3-2 overtime loss in New Jersey on Jan. 24 despite making 33 saves.

“I got to be better,” he said.

There’s no doubt Thompson has room for improvement. But he’s also given the Knights stability at hockey’s most important position. Goaltending could have been a major weakness. He has kept it from being a drag. He’s had a huge role in some impressive wins, like on the road against Toronto and Boston.

“He’s played awesome for us all year,” defenseman Nic Hague said.

Thompson’s prize is a trip to Florida, where he’s excited to meet his fellow All-Stars. He will be around players he’s looked up to for years, such as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

Not many of the other players wearing All-Star jerseys can say they have worked as hard for it as Thompson. He keeps reaching milestones that would have seemed impossible a few years ago.

He was the first goaltender from a Canadian university to reach the NHL since 1994. Now he will be the first to appear at All-Star Weekend.

“He’s had a different story in terms of getting to the NHL,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “He’s worked his way here. He’s a fighter. He’s a competitor when he’s on the ice. It’s good to see him get rewarded.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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