"Unsung Heroes": Nate Thompson

UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Nate Thompson of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on November 17, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

This is the first in a new series on Bolts By The Bay called “Unsung Heroes”, with one new installment to be added each month during the season.  November’s “Unsung Hero” is forward Nate Thompson.

When you consider that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nate Thompson had already set career highs in goals, assists, and points by game number 21 of the current season, it’s a tell tale sign as to just how far the 26-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska has come in his career. A sixth-round pick of the Boston Bruins in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft out of the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, Thompson saw action in just four games in Beantown over the course of three seasons.   He registered five shots on goal but didn’t record a point.  But then again, how much could he accomplish in an average of 4:46 of ice time?  Most of Thompson’s time with the Bruins’ organization was spent with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Thompson was claimed off of waivers by the New York Islanders in early 2008, and played in 82 contests over two seasons.  The six-foot, 207 pounder scored three goals and 10 points on the Island, but was a -25 in the plus / minus rating.

Thompson was claimed off waivers by the Lightning in January of 2010, and picked up a goal and four points over the final 32 games of the 2009-10 campaign.

This season under head coach Guy Boucher, it seems Thompson has finally found a home in Tampa Bay.  Beginning the year on the clubs’ fourth line with Adam Hall and Dana Tyrell, Thompson and his linemates would often spark the team with great shifts when the team had been back on it’s collective heels.

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 18: Nate Thompson (R) of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores the game winning goal at 5:19 of the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 18, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Lightning defeated the Flyers 8-7. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

And they have chipped in with some pretty important goals.

Thompson’s three goals came within a six game span, and his third goal of the season was scored on November 18th in Philadelphia. It was a wild contest, tied at 7-7 heading into the third period.

Thompson was able to knock home the rebound of a Tyrell shot early in the final frame, and it would hold up to give the Bolts an 8-7 victory.

It was not only the first game-winner of Thompson’s career, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The club’s confidence was very fragile, having just come off of a game in which they were barely able to squeeze out a win against Thompson’s former team.

This effort followed a Lightning three-game losing streak, and came against an Isles’ team that had lost their previous 10 contests.  New York threatened to break the streak of futility, but Tampa Bay was able to just get squeak out the victory.

Coincidentally, Thompson iced that win, also.  After John Tavares had brought the Islanders to within one goal late in regulation, Thompson potted an empty-netter to clinch the win.

Along with his faceoff skills and toughness, Boucher is gaining more and more confidence in Thompson.  His average time on ice has reached a career-high at nearly 14:30 per game.

And with Vincent Lecavalier on the shelf with a hand injury, Thompson should continue to have even more of an opportunity to impress his coach.

Resemblance to Foo Fighter

Something dawned on me as I was watching the Lightning play earlier in the season – Thompson bears a striking resemblance to Foo Fighter front man Dave Grohl.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 14: Nate Thompson of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 14, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BERLIN - NOVEMBER 05: Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters attends the aftershow of the 2009 MTV Europe Music Awards at the e-werk on November 5, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

This was never more evident than when Thompson let his beard grow in about a month ago.

Hearing only of the nickname “Nater”, I thought it would be funny to give Thompson a Grohl / Foo-related nickname.

Something like “Monkey Wrench” comes to mind, as Thompson seems to throw a monkey wrench into the other team’s game plan.

Any other Foo-related suggestions?  Just a little something to have some fun with before tonight’s game in Toronto.
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Tags: Bolts Dave Grohl Guy Boucher John Tavares Nate Thompson National Hockey League NHL Seattle Thunderbirds Tampa Bay Lightning Vincent Lecavalier Western Hockey League Whl

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