On the surface alone, the points are not there yet. But Aidan Thompson is not worried.
However, it is fair to say that expectations were high coming into the 2023–24 season. The University of Denver forward and Chicago Blackhawks prospect tallied 10 goals and 22 assists in 32 games as a freshman. Thompson’s 32 points were the fourth-most on the Pioneers’ roster.
Coming into this year, the Fort Collins, Colorado, native was expected to replace some of the production that departed the program in the likes of Casey Dornbach, Justin Lee and Carter Mazur, among others.
Thompson started the year with a third-period goal in the season opener against Alaska-Fairbanks. It has been his only goal thus far with five assists, including a two-assist game last Saturday against Arizona State, rounding out his six-point total on the young season.
“It’s been kind of a slow start to the season, but sometimes that’s just how it goes,” Thompson told The Rink on Monday afternoon. “It doesn’t always go your way. It’s just not falling right now. Things will come, I think. Our team has a process, and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Pios take advantage of another turnover as Aidan Thompson buries a backhander off a rebound.
6-2 Pioneers late in the 3rd period. pic.twitter.com/7lljVIyYy5
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) October 8, 2023
A new season means adjustments, even for the returning players. Thompson has been settling in and learning to play with new teammates. The 21-year-old started the year alongside junior Tristan Broz and freshman Miko Matikka.
He has also seen time with freshman Sam Harris and senior team captain McKade Webster. Over the last couple of games, he has been reunited with Broz and Matikka as Denver looks to find the line combinations that best suit the program and its players.
And while Thompson has been developing chemistry with players he had not played with before, the young forward has also been working on his shot selection. Through the first 10 games, he is shooting pucks at just a 4.5% clip, down from almost 14% a year ago.
However, it is more about firing accurate shots on net, not just shooting for the sake of shooting.
“Hitting the net a little bit more, focusing on that,” Thompson said of his approach to shooting this season. “More shots at the net, the more shots that can go in. Then, just a little bit unlucky so far this year, I think (the goals) will come in bunches. So, right now, they just haven’t fallen as I’ve wanted, but they will.”
Aside from pure production, Thompson continues to do the little things right: playing aggressive, being hard on pucks and being a pest on the forecheck.
Like most players between their freshman and sophomore seasons, Thompson spent a lot of time developing off the ice, getting stronger to go up against bigger and older competition.
WHAT A STICK BY THOMPSON!
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) October 28, 2023
The results have immediately translated in the face-off dot.
As a freshman, Thompson won just over 50% of all draws. Outside of the first weekend this year, Thompson’s added strength has helped him to dominate in the face-off dot. He has won 57.5% (73 of 127) of all draws over his last eight games.
Looking ahead to this weekend, Denver will host Omaha in what will be the first of six consecutive home games.
Against the Mavericks last season, Thompson recorded a goal and an assist with three shots on goal. It kick-started a three-game point streak and a stretch of points in seven of eight games.
The young forward will hope for a similar fortune but also understands it is just a process of sticking with his game. The results will come.
“I think I’m playing well,” Thompson said. “I actually think I’m playing better than I did at times last year. Things just haven’t been going in, and that’s going to happen at times throughout the year.
“With guys last year, we put up big numbers who had dry spells, and they just stuck with it. I can’t really worry about it too much, just focus on doing everything I can for the team and continue to win games.”