What does the return of Nate Thompson mean for the Flyers?

NHL: MAR 07 Sabres at Flyers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 07: Philadelphia Flyers Left Wing Michael Raffl (12) talks with Center Nate Thompson (44) in the third period during the game between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers on March 07, 2020 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Chuck Fletcher’s focus on building a strong locker room continues. The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Wednesday that Nate Thompson has officially signed with the team, returning to Philly after spending a year with the Jets.

The 36-year-old appeared in 44 games for Winnipeg last year, putting up 5 points in that time. He was originally acquired by the Flyers at the 2020 trade deadline and played in seven games before the season halted. When play resumed, he ended up being a key cog in the team that went on to play in 16 postseason games, averaging 12:37 of ice time and winning 60.1% of his faceoffs.

Speaking of which, 78.6% of regular season draws came in his own zone. While he’s a little quiet in terms of production, he does ad intrinsic value at the face-off circle.

Now 36-years-old, Nate Thompson has played in 811 games for nine different teams in total. He has 64 goals and 97 assists in the regular season, along with a further 21 points in the postseason.

With youngsters like Morgan Frost knocking at the 3C door, Thompson is likely going to come in as someone fighting for the 4C role. There’s no guarantee he’ll win it, but having a veteran with Stanley Cup experience around, and one who the players are familiar with, is always a good thing.

There are plenty of other young players in the mix too. Nic Aube-Kubel was protected prior to the NHL expansion Draft, while Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison have both staked their claim to an increase in average ice time next year. Thompson will almost act as the benchmark here and considering how aggressive NAK can be, he’s almost the perfect player to bring in and let him compete against.

The Flyers could do a lot worse than Thompson. His career may be dwindling, but he can still add value late in games as someone that can play physically, win face-offs, and provide a backup plan beneath a surging Morgan Frost, who is showing no signs of slowing down.

Chuck Fletcher has done a great job of bringing in physical players who are going to be chirpy and that trend continues with the return of Nate Thompson on a cheap and cheerful deal. There are a lot of vets who can lead the charge, only adding to the level of confidence that the youthful core will be able to play with next year.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire