Logan Thompson taking experience with Golden Knights in stride

The top goalie in the AHL last season is knocking on the door to get some NHL action soon.

Logan Thompson lived college life to the fullest.

The art of the college kid in the 21st century has likely changed in the past 20 years, but eating pizza and drinking beer doesn’t seem like a bad way to go.

If Thompson knew what the next two years would bring since his days at Brock University, he would’ve gladly passed on the Domino’s and (likely) Molson.

And as the No. 1 goalie for the Henderson Silver Knights, he could at least afford Pizza Hut now.

The 24-year-old Thompson enters his first training camp with the Vegas Golden Knights on the doorstep of finding some NHL time in his future. Thompson, who led the Silver Knights with a 16-6-1 record last season, a league-best 1.96 GAA and .943 save percentage, was the Bastien Memorial Award winner as the best goalie in the American Hockey League.

“Last year was a lot of fun,” Thompson said. “We had a good team and I felt like I took strides in my own game.”

That’s putting it mildly.

Before Thompson signed an entry-level deal with the Golden Knights in July 2020, he played 32 games with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays. But prior to that season in which he had a 2.25 GAA and .925 save percentage, pro hockey didn’t look to be in the cards.

Through four years with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Thompson allowed nearly 3.3 goals per game and the save percentage hovered only at a .905.

Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who coached Thompson in Brandon, had to have some hunch that the Calgary native would pan out. One year in, even Captain Obvious is rolling his eyes to how this is working out for the Vegas organization.

Thompson entered camp as the No. 3 goalie in the system behind Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit. Barring anything drastic, Thompson will be donning the silver pads on opening night. Before that, he’ll get a look in the preseason and could start one of Vegas’ first two home games.

The Golden Knights open exhibition play Sunday at T-Mobile Arena against the San Jose Sharks.

“Getting used to the NHL-caliber shots and preseason is going to be a good gauge for me to see where I’m at with my game,” he said, “and hopefully good things happen.

It was a weird season for everyone involved, but perhaps no player in the Vegas organization took more advantage of the situation than Thompson. When Lehner missed a month last season due to a concussion, Thompson spent many nights as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Thompson made his NHL debut on March 11 at the Minnesota Wild. He saw two shots, saved them both, in the eight minutes of game action he got in relief of Fleury. While that month was Fleury’s stamp of clinching the Vezina Trophy, Thompson spent those days learning from the third-winningest goalie in NHL history.

“That’s a hall-of-fame guy,” Thompson said. “And just being around the guys, learning how to be a good teammate and watching Flower practice was awesome and surreal. I’m thankful for the opportunity and I just try to take it day by day every time I’m up here.

“I think once you get up here, you sit on the bench at T-Mobile and you want to be out there every day. It’s an awesome experience, the fans are great, and this is where I want to play.”

This will be an important year to see where Thompson fits in the Golden Knights’ plans. While he did have the best season of any AHL goalie and was instrumental in a successful first season in Henderson, he only played the same teams a handful of times due to the COVID-shortened season.

With the AHL returning to a full 72-game season, Thompson will get an increased workload with more opponents on the horizon. But there’s no doubt the confidence the organization has in him to reach the next level is at never-ending heights

“He’s a guy that really proved that he’s ready to play some NHL games,” said Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer. “Like [Peyton] Krebs and [Kaedan] Korczak and all those guys, does that mean in September, or December, or the second half of the year? Or if we get an injury? I don’t know. I’m confident he can come in and play based on his body of work.”