Kings sign forward Akil Thomas to two-year contract extension (AAV: $775,000)

The LA Kings have signed forward Akil Thomas to a two-year contract extension (AAV: $775,000). The first year of the contract is a two-way deal, while the second year is a one-way deal.

Thomas made his NHL debut in April in Winnipeg, the first of seven games he played with the big club this past season. He made an almost immediate impact with the Kings, scoring his first career NHL goal in San Jose in his second game, one of four points (3–1-4) he collected. Thomas was also a leader at the AHL level, as an alternate captain in Ontario and a big part of the team’s run to the third round in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Instant Analysis
Thomas is a part of a group of younger players primed to compete for a full-time spot in the NHL. And, as you’d have it, the LA Kings need players in that age range to contribute. They also need players at that salary range to contribute. Thomas has the potential to check both boxes and he will get a good, long look during training camp to prove that he should be a full-time NHL player this season.

Why Thomas belongs in that category is what he showed towards the end of last season in the NHL, as well as his AHL body of work over the entire 2023-24 campaign. He showed he could be a skill player at the AHL level and he had four points from seven NHL games. He can play at this level too. Why he has distinguished himself from others, perhaps, is the sandpaper element on top of the skill. The Kings don’t need a first-line performance from Akil Thomas. Be great if it came but they need younger and cost-efficient players to contribute lower in the lineup. With that is the need to do more than score. I believe that Thomas can deliver that.

Before his NHL debut in Winnipeg, Thomas spoke about his lightbulb moment this season, if you will. He credited Ontario Reign Head Coach Marco Sturm with helping him to re-focus in on other aspects of his game that are important, areas he perhaps lost sight of throughout numerous injuries that cost him a ton of development time throughout the first three seasons of his professional career. Thomas began to value those things in the AHL this season and it showed in his play. Not only was he scoring but he was making plays too. He was gritty. He was a leader. He played the game the right way and that was seen. It was why he was in a position to be recalled for key games in a playoff push. It’s those things, along with the production, that make him an appealing by contender for the 2024-25 iteration of the LA Kings. The Kings are keen to infuse youth into the lineup, a lineup that was the youngest in the postseason. Thomas signing this extension gives him a good chance at that.

As far as the contract, the numbers involved are important and it’s what was talked about in Thomas’ season in review a few weeks back. The Kings need players at or around the league-minimum to contribute in the NHL. Thomas comes in at $775,000, which makes him that much more appealing for an NHL job. It also likely gives him more of a financial guarantee, especially considering the second season being a one-way deal, with regards to an increased likelihood of NHL participation. While Thomas had a nice seven-game run, he’s far from proven. He still needs to do that and he won’t be handed an NHL roster spot. This deal boosts his guaranteed financial compensation over the two years while benefitting the Kings from a salary cap standpoint. Similar contract to what we saw Tobias Bjornfot sign last year and I’d imagine similar to what we could see Alex Turcotte sign for as an RFA this summer.

From the team’s official release –

The LA Kings have signed forward Akil Thomas to a two-year contract worth an average annual value (AAV) of $775,000 through the 2025-26 season.

Thomas, 24, split the 2023-24 campaign between the Kings and their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Ontario Reign. Thomas made his NHL debut on April 1 in Winnipeg and registered three goals and four points (3-1=4) in seven games for the Kings last season, including his first career NHL goal in his second career game on April 4 in San Jose. Thomas notched his third goal in his fifth career game on April 11 against Calgary to become the fifth different skater in franchise history to score at least three goals within the first five games of his career, and the first to do so since Brian Boyle (3-1=4 in 5GP) from Feb. 2-10, 2008.

The 5-11, 185-pound forward accumulated 46 points (22-24=46) in 64 games with the Reign this season, setting career highs in goals, assists and points, and was one of three Reign skaters to hit the 20-goal mark this season. He earned AHL Player of the Week honors for the period ending March 24, 2024, after notching four goals, two assists and a plus-6 rating while recording all three game-winning goals during the Reign’s perfect 3-0-0 week. Thomas’ nine game-winning goals finished second among all AHL skaters behind teammate Samuel Fagemo and contributed a pair of goals and three assists (2-3=5) in eight Calder Cup Playoff contests.

Originally selected by the Kings in the second round (51st overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft, Thomas has skated in 157 career games across four seasons with the Reign, accumulating 46 goals and 47 assists for 93 points (46-47=93). In 13 career Calder Cup Playoff outings, Thomas has tallied seven goals and 10 points (7-3=10).

Prior to turning pro, the Toronto, Ontario native played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), recording 315 points (105-210=315) in 241 career games with the Peterborough Petes and Niagara IceDogs, where he served as captain during the 2019-20 season. Thomas has represented Canada at three IIHF events, including one IIHF World Junior Championship (2020 – gold), where he scored the game-winner against Russia, and two IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championships (2017 and 2018).

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