Another Alaskan is in NHL

THOMPSON IS 6TH: Islanders claim center from Anchorage.

October 9, 2008 

New location, new team, new number -- center Nate Thompson of Anchorage has a new start on his hockey career, and it has landed him back in the NHL.

The New York Islanders on Wednesday claimed Thompson, 24, off waivers. That move came one day after the Boston Bruins placed Thompson on waivers in the hope he would go unclaimed and return to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate he captained last season.

But the Islanders, who have former Providence bench boss Scott Gordon as their first-year head coach, picked up Thompson and immediately placed the fourth-year pro on their season-opening roster.

"It's been a crazy day, but it's been an exciting day,'' Thompson said from Long Island, N.Y., on Wednesday night.

With Thompson's return to an NHL roster -- he played four games for Boston in 2006-07 -- six Alaskans begin the season in the world's best league.

Centers Scott Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky of Anchorage are the top two pivots for the New York Rangers. Ty Conklin of Anchorage is a goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings. Defenseman Matt Carle of Anchorage plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And right wing Scott Parker of Eagle River serves as an enforcer for the Colorado Avalanche.

Thompson, who is coming off a career-best season in the AHL, found out shortly past noon Wednesday that the Islanders had claimed him.

"It's like a new chapter,'' Thompson said. "I have a lot of good memories of Providence and my call-ups to Boston. The Bruins organization was good to me.

"Now I'm moving to a new organization and getting a fresh start. I still have to play well, and still make a statement and prove I belong.''

Once Thompson received Wednesday's news, he packed up his clothes at a Boston- area hotel, jumped in his truck, drove down to Long Island and checked into another hotel.

"Pretty much my whole life is in my truck,'' Thompson said.

Thompson, who was among Boston's last three cuts Tuesday, was placed on waivers because he is on his second NHL contract. He signed a one-year deal with Boston in the offseason.

He spent all three of his previous pro seasons playing for Gordon in Providence and said he welcomed being reunited with his coach.

"He kind of molded me into the player I am now and taught me what it would take to be a third-line or fourth-line player in the NHL,'' Thompson said.

Thompson last season produced 19 goals, 20 assists and 39 points in 75 games for Providence. All of those were career highs for him, as was his plus-13 rating and 83 penalty minutes. The Baby Bruins forged the AHL's best regular-season record before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

"Last year was definitely a boost of confidence, and it helped that we had such a good team,'' Thompson said. "When you're on a good team, the individual things take care of themselves.''

Today, Thompson is scheduled to get new equipment and go through his first practice with the Islanders. After wearing No. 11 in Providence and No. 52 in his stint in Boston, he'll wear No. 45 for the Isles. Thompson said that number brought to mind the movie, "Rudy,'' the story of an improbable walk-on making the Notre Dame football team.

"It was slim pickings for numbers,'' Thompson said. "But I figured if No. 45 was good enough for Rudy Ruettiger, it was good enough for me.''


Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

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