With a fresh two-year, $3.3-million deal in his back pocket, winger Nate Thompson is a month away from joining the Ottawa Senators‘ ranks after spending eight years in sunnier locales like Anaheim and Tampa Bay.
But while Thompson is getting prepped to enter into the Battle of Ontario fray against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the veteran of 10 seasons couldn’t help but give props to one of his future rivals.
Asked about how the league has changed as the game continues to shift more towards high-octane speed and skill, Thompson cited one of the Leafs’ big-bodied best as a name that defines the sport’s transition.
“I think it has been evolving the last few years. You see the guys that fight and the guys who are still playing regular shifts,” Thompson told Mike Commito on Thursday in a Q&A for Violent Gentleman, the clothing line started by former NHLer George Parros. “You look at a guy like Matt Martin, he’s kind of the prototypical enforcer now. He’s a guy who will fight anybody but plays a lot of quality minutes and usually leads the league in hits every year. …That’s where I think the enforcer role is going.
“You’re not going to see a guy who’s going to play two or three minutes, fight, and be done for the night. We’re in a time now in the league where coaches are using all four lines to win, so every guy has to be able to play.”
Thompson should be well-acquainted with Martin’s skill set. He and the former New York Islander dropped the mitts back in 2010, and both forwards have since transitioned into more versatile roles in the league.
“When I came up from the minors I fought more back then,” Thompson said. “But, I think it’s one of those things that as I got further into my career, I started to have more of an impact on the game. Whether it’s taking face-offs or killing penalties, I was being used up and down the lineup. …When you’re playing more minutes, you need to be on the ice.”
Martin wasn’t the only competitor that the newest Senator praised. Thompson – who has 18 career fights on his resume, according to HockeyFights.com – called up a few more unexpected names when asked about the toughest customer in the NHL.
“When I think of the toughest guy in the league I think of Ryan Reaves. I think everybody would probably agree,” Thompson said. “But pound for pound? …I fought that (Micheal) Ferland kid from Calgary and he’s a pretty tough kid. He can chuck ‘em pretty good, so I’d put him in that category.”