Before arriving to the Flyers at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, Nate Thompson had played for seven teams over 13 years in the NHL.
Some pretty good teams, too. Thompson made the 2011 Eastern Conference Final with the Lightning, who had Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. He went to the 2017 Western Conference Final with the Ducks and played 36 postseason games through three seasons for Anaheim. Overall, he has 62 playoff appearances on his résumé.
With the Flyers, Thompson played seven games before the NHL was forced to suspend the season because of the coronavirus outbreak. He joined the club when it was on a three-game winning streak and helped it stretch the run to nine straight victories before the Flyers lost to the Bruins in their final matchup ahead of the pause.
A 35-year-old veteran like Thompson made a seamless transition into the Flyers’ locker room. It also took him only seven games to see that the Flyers were a contender starting to awake.
And not just built for this season.
“It’s definitely an organization, not just this year, but I think for years to come, they’re going to be very, very good,” Thompson said as a guest on Sportsnet’s latest 31 Thoughts: The Podcast with Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman published Wednesday. “They’re definitely going to have a chance. It was a lot of fun, especially at this point in my career, to be a part of something like that. Unfortunately with what happened, we got paused, but hopefully we can get back to that, get back to playing and have a chance to win this year.”
There’s a good chance 2019-20 will be Thompson’s only season in Philadelphia as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent during the offseason, so this shot means a lot for him. He knows if Flyers fans are feeling frustrated with the current run being put in jeopardy, they should at least take solace in the fact that the team looks pretty well constructed for the immediate future.
The club’s defense is young, deepening and will have at least one more year of Matt Niskanen. The group of forwards has vets still experiencing some of their best years, Travis Konecny blossoming into an All-Star and prospects like Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost getting their feet wet. That’s not to mention Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom being out and still in the picture, of course, moving forward. And the Flyers have their 21-year-old franchise goalie just getting started.
“When you have a guy like Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, these guys, they lead by example on and off the ice,” Thompson said. “You can see their habits, you see the way Couturier plays, everyone kind of just follows his lead. And then you have some good young players and a goalie like Carter Hart, who I think the sky’s the limit for him, kid’s a stud.”
Couple that with head coach Alain Vigneault, who has gone twice to the Stanley Cup Final, and Thompson believes there should be excitement in Philadelphia.
“Everyone always asked me when I got there, ‘Oh, how’s Philly?’ I’m like, ‘Well, it’s great, we’ve won nine in a row, it’s hard not to love it here,'” Thompson said. “It was a lot of fun to be a part of, they have a great group of guys in the locker room. I know you can say that for a lot of teams, but you can really tell how much the guys care and how much fun they have – and you can see it. When I got there, I think they won three, four in a row and almost didn’t feel like they won that many in a row. It was kind of just come to the rink the next day, reset, have fun, work hard, go about your business and on to the next game and expect to win it.”
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