The more you go to games the more you understand that the youth hockey community is small.
After a while you start to see the same kids and parents in your home city rinks, not to mention opposition rinks and start to also recognize opposition parents and youth players.
One player who continues to show up on the radar is Akil Thomas who now makes his home in Toronto, Canada.
Akil gained notice in Florida with the AAA Florida team that shocked the tournament in 2008 when he was 8 years old by winning the One Hockey Cup in Philadelphia.
That cup winning team consisted of a number of Atlanta based kids, many who have risen to AAA competition or elite status.
Cal Mell, Cannon Green, Mason Palmer, Clendenin Stewart, and Jonathan Shaw all played for the Florida team and many continue to perform at highly competitive levels in the Atlanta area.
The Most Valuable Player of the tournament, Thomas now performs for the Toronto Nationals Peewee squad.
Thomas was offered and accepted a spot at a prestigious Prep school in the Toronto area and his family packed up and moved from the warm weather of Florida in the United States to the colder climate in Toronto, Canada, the home of hockey.
Akil is not only a standout performer for Upper Canada College, but he has continued to maintain excellent grades in his second year while peforming the elected function of Community Service Leader (class president). He also continues to find extra time captaining the schools Soccer team.
Thomas plays in the competitive GTHL (Greater Toronto Hockey League)
According to his coach, Santo Rando, “Akil displays tremendous leadership qualities to go along with exceptional passion and competitiveness. Akil is second to none in ability. He understands the game at a different level and has become one of the best hitters on the team to go with his impressive offensive performance.”
The GTHL has been in existence since 1911 graduating several NHL Hockey Hall of Famers such as Paul Coffey, Steve Shutt, Brad Park, Ken Dryden, Larry Murphy and Mike Gartner. More recent graduates are Jeff Skinner, PK Subban, John Tavares, and Tyler Seguin.
After over a year at his new school and on the Toronto Nationals youth hockey team Akil has settled in nicely and is one of the offensive leaders on his hockey teams. (Akil skates for both the school squad and the Nationals)
Last season, although a leading point getter on his team; when it came time for the year end award for team MVP, Thomas came in second to a line mate.
Akil has won several MVP awards including the One Hockey and Bricktown tournaments and always sets his sites on performing at the highest levels.
According to several parents who followed the Nationals "his line mate was the beneficiary of many of Akil’s nifty passes and playmaking.
Thomas seemed to learn from the previous year by not only maintaining his assist production, but also increasing his goal output to almost a one per game average.
While Thomas can still take the puck from end to end and score a highlight reel goal he has further improved in his ability to read the play and create the best offensive opportunity.
“I think Akil is developing well and I can see him thinking rather than reacting on the ice now” said Kahlil Thomas, Akil’s father and first hockey coach.
Even though Akil lives in Canada and plays against Canadian based teams like the Toronto Marlies, his team has played against United States based teams such as Honeybaked several times.
Honeybaked (ranked number 3 in the United States) features one of Akil’s old Florida championship teammates, Cannon Green, and has provided the Nationals with several high intensity contests.
“I enjoyed playing Honeybaked and Little Caesars. They are both well known teams with good skaters at every position. The competition was great” he said.
When asked about a description of one of his favorite games this season he said” It was against Little Caesars. I score 2 goals and got one assist and we tied it up 3-3.”
When Akil was asked what he wanted to happen with his team this season he commented” I want us to win that is the most important thing.”
The Nationals have a sparkling winning history in Canada with NHL alumni like:
Paul Coffey, Rick Middleton, Mike Ricci, Tyler Sequin, Larry Murphy, Eric Lindros, Mike Gartner and a list of other.
Ranked number 4 in their division with a 40-13-3 record the Nationals could add a few more Future NHLers to the list in say about 6 years time.