Nate Thompson

Anchorage’s Nate Thompson is done for now with the Los Angeles Kings, who Tuesday released the veteran NHL center from his professional tryout agreement, but he says he definitely is not done with hockey.

Thompson, who turned 38 Wednesday, said he intends to sign with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign, the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, to continue his pro career into an 18th season. That move, Thompson hopes, will make him an option for any NHL team seeking an experienced checking-line center who has built a long career as a strong face-off man and penalty killer.

“Dream isn’t over!” Thompson said in a direct message.

Signing with Ontario will also keep him in California, where he makes his offseason home.

With 844 career regular-season NHL games played, Thompson has played the second-most games among Alaskans in the world’s best league – only retired center Scotty Gomez of Anchorage has played more (1,079).

Gomez (East High) was the quintessential can’t miss kid – a first-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils who was the NHL’s Rookie of the Year and helped the Devils win the 2000 Stanley Cup as a first-year pro. Thompson (Dimond High) took a longer path. He was a sixth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins and played three full seasons in the AHL before he became an NHL regular. Yet Thompson’s diligence and perseverance has made him a veteran of 14 full NHL seasons.

181 – Scott Gomez
153 – Brandon Dubinsky
*65 – Nate Thompson
45 – Matt Carle
20 – Joey Crabb
7 – Scott Parker
4 – Brian Swanson
4 – Tim Wallace
1 – Casey Bailey

And some NHL team to this point has always coveted his game. Thompson has played for nine NHL clubs – Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, the Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers.

Thompson last season played 33 games with the Flyers, with 1-2—3 totals. He underwent surgery for a dislocated shoulder during the season and made it back into the lineup before season’s end.

In 844 career NHL games, Thompson owns 65-99—164 totals and has won 52.9 percent of his face-offs. In 86 Stanley Cup playoff games, he owns 8-13—21 totals and raised his face-off percentage to 55.7.

Thompson is one of three Alaskans with NHL prospects this season. Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman of Anchorage, an NHL All-Rookie Team selection last season, enters his second season. Veteran goaltender Pheonix Copley of North Pole, who along with Swayman is just one of three Alaskans to tend goal in the NHL (retired Ty Conklin of Anchorage is the other), remains in training camp with the Kings. As long as Kings goalies Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen are healthy, Copley will likely join Thompson in Ontario.

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