Friday, September 24, 2021

With contract in tow, Thomas focuses on proving himself

Center signed two-year, $5.6 million contract, feels "the sky's 
the limit" as far as advancing his career moving into Year 4

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Robert Thomas knew he cut it close to reporting on time to the opening of training camp as far as signing a contract as a restricted free agent.

But in the end, it all worked out for the Blues' 2017 first-round pick and he's in the fold fresh, anxious and eager to take the proverbial steps forward in his career.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (18) made it on time to training camp after signing a two-year
$5.6 million contract on Wednesday

Thomas agreed to a two-year, $5.6 million contract ($2.8 million average annual value) on Tuesday, signed it on Wednesday and was on the ice Thursday for the start of training camp.

Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

"We got it done in time. That's all that matters," the 22-year-old center said Friday. "I'm happy to be back for two more years. We've got a great group and a competitive group. I can't wait to get the season going."

Thomas said there wasn't anything particular that led to the delay in getting a deal done, other than, "It's a tough negotiation, but I'm happy it's done and I'm happy for two more years here. It's going to be a lot of fun."

With young players, it is critical that they don't miss camp and that they're getting the proper tutelage for the development of their growth.

For Thomas, who had an injury-plagued and inconsistent third season in the NHL last year with just 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 33 regular-season games, there was a slight bit of concern but not too drastic.

"Not too much," he said. "I came in probably a month ago. My whole thinking process was it was going to get done and not to worry about it and just prepare for my first day of camp. Overall, I wasn't too worried, maybe a little bit towards the end, but all in all, happy to be here for the first day of camp.

"Injuries suck. It's part of the game and especially during COVID, that's tough when you can't be around the team and stuff like that. It takes a lot out of you mentally and last year was not pretty obviously for me. I'm looking forward to turning the page and coming in more hungry and determined to prove myself."

Thomas sustained shoulder and thumb injuries last season that kept him out of the lineup for 23 games, and even when it seemed like he was picking up some steam as far as good play was concerned, an injury seemed to derail any progress. 

Thomas was wanting to get bigger and stronger heading into last year and that seemed to hamper what he wanted to do on the ice somewhat. So he changed his routine this year, went back home to Ontario for most of the summer, trimmed down, and it's been decidedly noticeable.

"I changed up my summer routine a little bit," Thomas said. "I came back a little bit early here to show how hard I worked all summer. It was pretty much that. There wasn't too much too it other than I thought just change it up a little and I'm really happy with the results.

"A little bit of strength, dropped some weight. Nothing too crazy, but I'm really happy with how I feel. I feel good out there."

Blues coach Craig Berube challenged Thomas to take his conditioning to another level, is grateful his third-line center is in camp on time and has seen the results early in camp.

"It's always important for a player to be in camp on time and be part of the team and get the work that's needed," Berube said. "'Tommer' did a great job this summer of working extremely hard. He's got himself in real good shape, very committed player, very happy that he signed a contract and that he's with us. 

"I don't really put expectations on players. I don't believe that's a fair thing to do. You put expectations on your team. Individuals, yeah, they have to perform at a high level for the team to have success. He's just been one of the guys that is going to need to perform at a high level for us to have success."

Thomas has started camp centering two veterans in Vladimir Tarasenko and Brandon Saad. It's a look Berube and the coaching staff will monitor closely and want to take a strong look at.

"I think we're starting to click," Thomas said. "Today in practice, I thought we were really good. We were moving it well, creating a lot of chances. 

"Vladi looks awesome this year. He's ready to rock. He's hungry. Saader is a fast, smart player. I think us three together will look really nice and looking forward to getting into some game action."

The Blues are going to give Thomas the roles and minutes needed to advance his career and think he's a good fit to get to where they feel he should be.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robert Thomas (center) talks to Blues teammates Brayden Schenn (left)
and Justin Faulk during the opening of training camp Thursday.

"Year by year, I think you just feel more comfortable and confident," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "I think he's going to have a big year for us. We need him to have a big year. As far as being in camp, I think that's important. It wears on a guy when you're not signed and you're missing camp. It gets you thinking a lot. It's important that they got a deal done and he's here for Day 1 and I think he's happy to be here for Day 1 and being a part of it right from the get-go."

So where can Thomas get to? Where can his game go to get to a level he feels is suitable for his stance currently in the league?

"You know what, that's a good question," Thomas said. "I've got a lot of confidence in myself and a lot of belief. I think the sky's the limit. Now it's just up to me to go out there and prove it. I can believe in myself and trust myself and have confidence in myself. It's just up to me to go prove it and take advantage of every opportunity I'm given."

No comments:

Post a Comment