Goaltender Tim Thomas´ early season performances for AIK in the Swedish Elitserien is leaving hockey people wondering why he isn´t playing in the National Hockey League.
Being no stranger to the European game, the 26-year-old American arrived in Stockholm this summer after spending last season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. He had previously starred in the Finnish SM-Liiga for powerhouse HIFK Helsinki.
AIK has started the season remarkably well and a lot of the credit goes to Thomas who has backstopped the team to a placing at the top of the league table after eight games. Looking at the American´s statistics it is easy to understand why he is being hailed as a hero with barely one fifth of the season played.
His numbers are simply Hasek-like.
He is sporting a 94.4 save percentage and a goals against average at 1.72, and that is playing behind a defense that was average at best for the most part of last season. Thomas appears calm and quietly confident in the net, whether it´s cutting angles or aggressively challenging shooters.
”Thomas won the game for us today,” said AIK Head Coach Pär Mårts after a mid-october 4-0 road win over Björklöven in which AIK was outshot 37-19. ”We lacked organization, didn´t win any faceoffs or battles along the boards. I´m thanking Tim for the three points,” Mårts elaborated.
Björklöven´s Head Coach John Slettvoll agreed: ”Tim Thomas was unbelievable today.” There is simply no other way to characterize the performance that the 3500 fans in the Umeå Ishall witnessed. Thomas robbed Björklöven shooters from point blank range, making difficult saves look ridiculously easy as he deflected pucks into the corners.
He even drew applause from the Björklöven fans when he first made a nice glove save and then threw the puck up in the air and batted it out of the zone with a baseball-like strike during a penalty-kill with only minutes to go in the game.
Originally a 11th round pick by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994 and cut by the Oilers after signing with them as a free agent in 1998, the 5´11, 180 pound goaltender from Flint, Michigan, is setting himself up for another chance to make it in the NHL.
There is simply no way performances such as the ones Thomas has been displaying can go unnoticed.