The 20-year-old was a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, and with injuries to Aaron Asham, Rick Nash and Darroll Powe up front, the youngster was given his first crack at the NHL.
"I was obviously nervous, and going out there for the anthems, it was crazy. I've never been in front of so many fans," Thomas said. "It was surreal, but I was glad to get the first couple of shifts over with and get the jitters away, and then tried to play the way I like to play."
He got things going with a bang — literally.
On his first shift, he put a solid hit on Canadiens' forward Erik Cole, had a shot on goal, and he also got laid out by Montreal defenseman Francis Bouillon before heading back to the bench.
“It’s always nice to get a good hit to start off the game,” said Thomas, who packed a punch on that first hit despite being just 5-9, 170 pounds. “My dad always tells me be physical, hard on the forecheck. Smaller guys have to do that to be successful, and I just tried to get it out of the way early.”
As the game went on, Thomas received more minutes for head coach John Tortorella, and amassed 12:46 of ice time on 17 shifts. He also saw time on the Rangers' second power play unit.
He was able to put two shots on goal and recorded three hits.
His father is Steve Thomas, who is a 20-year NHL veteran and a player development coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steve was in attendance for his son's NHL debut, making the furthest trip to Montreal of any family member — from North Carolina, as he skipped the Lightning's game against the Hurricanes.
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