Paul Thompson came to Albany already a seemingly readymade Devil.
The right wing already had friends on the team, had played with and against some of them in college, worked out a couple summers with them, and he knew what to expect coming into camp.
Also, thanks to a reduced role with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season, then a mid-season trade to Columbus and a third-line role with the Springfield Falcons, he had already grown into the type of player the Devils want.
“At times, it was frustrating,” Thompson said of his role changes. “I thought I could do more and produce more. Looking back, it was a frustrating season for me last year, but I learned a lot of things. I learned you can be a productive player without necessarily scoring a lot of points or goals.
“Here, they looked for that complete player, guys who are going to be responsible in their own end and have good habits. The first year in Wilkes-Barre, I had come out of college focused more on the offensive side of the game. The first couple years as a pro, you learn you have to be a lot better at some of the really small things you wouldn’t have thought about before.”
Thompson and the Albany Devils will take on Bridgeport tonight in Connecticut at 7 and again Saturday in Albany at 5.
Between Wilkes-Barre and Springfield, he came into this season with 39 goals and 33 assists in 200 games. Before turning pro, he played four years with the University of New Hampshire, totaling 57 goals and 55 assists in 140 games.
In Albany, he rejoins an old UNH teammate, right wing Mike Sislo, who was on that Wildcats squad all four years with Thompson.
“Playing with him, going to school with him, I know him well and the kind of person he is and player he is and how he can help us out,” Sislo said. “It’s been great having a good friend and another good player on the team.”
The two were working out together this summer when Thompson started talking to the Devils about signing as a free agent. Thompson asked Sislo and another former offseason buddy, Joe Whitney, what the organization was like.
“They both had good things to say about the place, the coaches, the guys on the team, the way they play,” Thompson said. “They thought I would fit right in with their style. After hearing that, it was pretty easy for me to come here. Knowing a couple guys obviously makes the transition a little easier. So far, they’re right. I like the style of hockey we play here, and the staff and everyone is great.”
“He gave me a call and was asking about how things were ran here,” Whitney said. “I told him how it was, and we’re lucky enough to have him on the team now. He’s the type of player who likes to go to the net and shoot the puck, so my job is to get him the puck and help his strengths come out. Hopefully, he can get it over to me once in a while, too.”
Thompson lined with Whitney and Scott Timmins in the Devils’ first game of the season, a 5-1 win at Adirondack on Saturday, and Thompson scored four goals.
Whitney handed out three assists, showing he has no intention of slowing down after leading the team in points the last three seasons. He already had established a rhythm with Timmins last season, and Thompson fell into it with them without missing a beat.
“Me and Timmins have a little bit of chemistry from last year,” Whitney said. “I’ve known Paul Thompson, we’ve skated together in the summers in the past, so I know what type of player he is and where he’s going to be out there. We’re just trying to work hard for each other out there and produce on a nightly basis.”
It was Thompson’s first four-goal night and tied the franchise record for goals in a game. Other Devils to do the same were David Clarkson, Matt Halischuk, Tim Sestito, Chad Wiseman and Bobby Butler.
Butler was the last to score four, netting them in a win Dec. 12, 2012 over Thompson and the Penguins.
“[Whitney and Timmins] play a game that fits my game well,” Thompson said. “We’re just trying to play with speed, attack teams, and take care of business in our own end.”
Saturday’s home opener is the start of Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan’s “Cash for Coats” initiative. Fans are encouraged to make a donation that will go toward providing winter clothes for Albany’s less-fortunate youth.
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