Annual article extolling the virtues of Patrick Thoresen

With the NHL locked out, the mantle of “world’s best hockey league” falls to the 26-team Kontinental Hockey League. That league’s second leading scorer is one-time Edmonton Oilers forward Patrick Thoresen.

Which makes it time for my annual piece wondering why he isn’t in the NHL.

The 2010 edition focused on his work at the Olympics; the 2011 piece on his fine work in the KHL. This time, I’ll briefly recap his work in the NHL and then go through everything he’s done since.

Patrick Thoresen, NHL’er

In May 2006, the Edmonton Oilers signed Thoresen to a two-year contract. He’d never been drafted but had emerged as a pretty decent player in the Swedish Elite League, picking up a respectable 36 points in 50 games at the age of 22. He was a training camp long-shot, but impressed early and ultimately made the team.

It kicked off two seasons that saw Thoresen play 120 games in the NHL between the regular season and playoffs, along with 34 in the minors. He played an energetic game, marrying defensive responsibility with a fourth-line work ethic, but struggled to score – though prolific in the minors, he recorded a point just 26 times in the majors.

His diligent two-way game was worth noting, though. Despite starting the lion’s share of his shifts in his own end of the rink and playing against decent opposition, his team routinely out-shot the opposition with him on the ice. Of course, he’s probably most famous for this (ignore Glenn Healy’s commentary – Thoreson took the puck off his testicles and couldn’t even walk afterward):

Flyers coach John Stevens sums up Thoresen’s attitude in the piece linked above: “[H]e’s a quick study. You tell him something once and it’s the last time you have to tell him. He’s a well-rounded player, much stronger than his size would indicate.”

Unable to secure a one-way contract – no doubt thanks to his poor offensive totals – Thoresen headed for Europe in the summer of 2008. Despite my appreciation for the player’s defensive game, I thought that would be the end of it because he simply didn’t bring enough offence.

Europe!

I was wrong. Thoresen quickly set about proving that he was capable of scoring.

2008-09, Swiss-A League: 48GP – 22G – 41A – 63PTS. Thoresen earned a berth on the Swiss all-star team after finishing as the league’s third-leading scorer. He also picked up a pair of goals and managed a respectable minus-3 rating (despite playing 21:12/game on a Norwegian team outscored 25-to-12) at the World Championships. Still, the Swiss-A league, while decent, isn’t the stiffest test for a professional player and six games on an underpowered world championship club proved almost nothing.

2009-10, KHL: 56GP – 24G – 33A – 57PTS, +45 (Playoffs: 15GP – 5G – 9A – 14PTS, +3). Thoresen played on one of the best lines in the KHL, generally on the wing, and ultimately led the league in plus/minus while scoring more than a point-per-game (6th overall in KHL scoring). He kept up the pace in the playoffs, and then followed that up with a point-per-game pace and even rating at the World Championships (once again, Thoresen was playing top line minutes – he finished even on a Norwegian team outscored 27-to-14). For good measure, he picked up five points in four Olympic contests.

2010-11, KHL: 54GP – 29G – 37A – 66PTS, +21 (Playoffs: 21GP – 3G – 15A – 18PTS, +11). The league’s second-leading goal and point scorer, Thoresen was a key member of the KHL’s playoff champions, leading the league in both assists and plus/minus in the post-season. He also started seeing time at center, winning 55.4 percent of faceoffs taken.

2011-12, KHL: 45GP – 15G – 26A – 41PTS, +22 (Playoffs: 15GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS, +2). A disappointing KHL season saw Thoresen finish just outside the league’s top-10 in scoring. He was superb at the World Championships, though – he finished second in tournament scoring with 18 points, just one back of tournament leader Evgeni Malkin.

2012-13, KHL: 9GP – 6G – 7A – 13PTS, +7. The KHL’s second-leading scorer in the early going.

KHL Career Summary: Between the playoffs and the regular season, Thoresen’s played 214 games, scored 83 times and picked up 215 points. His plus/minus sits at plus-110 and he’s won 54.8 percent of the 2052 faceoffs he’s taken.

The Point?

Thoresen has repeatedly expressed an interest in coming back to North America, as long as someone’s willing to give him a one-way contract. For a 28-year old heart-and-soul utility player who can line up anywhere on the ice, kills penalties, wins faceoffs, plays a physical game and has scored at a point-per-game pace over three (and a bit) KHL seasons… it seems like a reasonable gamble to me.

The lockout means that it wasn’t going to happen this year. But I continue to think it should happen soon.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • John Chambers

    Hey Jonathan, great article.

    I’m just curious if anyone knows why Thoreson was not drafted into the NHL in the first place? You’d think that scoring 73pts in 60 games (2001-02) and then 108pts in 71 games (2002-03) in the Q would be good enough. Am I missing something here?

  • John Chambers

    Nice write-up Willis.

    bq. For a 28-year old heart-and-soul utility player who can line up anywhere on the ice, kills penalties, wins faceoffs, plays a physical game and has scored at a point-per-game pace over three (and a bit) KHL seasons… it seems like a reasonable gamble to me.

    Sounds much nicer than “All GM’s are out of their minds for not signing this guy”, or whatever it was.

  • I have often wondered why the Oilers didn’t give Thor another shot after seeing his astonishing scoring stats in Europe.

    I got a real chuckle out of the time the Oilers played the only other team in the league with a Norweigan and he and Thoreson had a fight! Guess each wanted to show they were the toughest Norweigan in the NHL!

  • Reg Dunlop

    If Patrick Thoreson is a top point producer then no way is the KHL the 2nd best league. Would he lead the AHL in points? Not a chance in hell.

    The KHL reminds me of early WHA where name players went for a payday(ie. Derek Sanderson). In the early years the WHA was a step below the AHL.

    • Two points:

      a) Players from the KHL routinely post better numbers jumping to the NHL than they do when jumping from the AHL with equivalent offence.

      b) The last time Thoresen was in the AHL, he put up 26 points in 29 games – a pace that would have put him one point out of the top-10 scorers that year.

      So I guess what I’m saying is that yeah, the KHL is better than the AHL and also that Thoresen would probably be a top offensive option if he was in the minors, too.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Had he not worn an Oiler jersey previously, this would not even be an article or consideration for the current roster.He’s not on the third line , who do you eliminate.. Jones, Horcoff, or Smyth,.. The 4th line needs more grit and size then he has to offer. There has to be better players to be had out there… only if Tambelini would have the ya ya’s to get one.[ should have gone after Steve Ott this summer as one example.

    • Buffalo traded Derek Roy to land Steve Ott, plus had to take Adam Pardy’s ugly contract, too. Roy has 408 points in 500 games since the lockout; just for the sake of comparison, Zach Parise has 410 in 502. They aren’t the same player, but the point is that Roy’s been an excellent generator of offense and is a significant asset to part with for Ott.

      I like Ott a ton, but at that cost I don’t blame Tambellini for staying clear.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Patrick Thoresen makes about 3-4 million $ in the KHL, he tries to make up some money for his retirement, so he won’t accept a two-way deal. He also says he would finish his deal with SKA before an eventual return to NHL.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    He’s not exactly physical and he isn’t exactly proven at the NHL level on the draw.

    There is a reason no team has signed him since he left in 08. Even Calgary who found the need to give Cervenka such a deal haven’t went after him.

    • I get the ‘no team went out and got him, therefore he’s not worth getting’ rationale, but let’s keep in mind that the NHL as a league is hardly omniscient.

      Brian Rafalski was a point-per-game guy out of college; it took four seasons of offensive production in Europe before he was signed. David Vyborney was nearly a point-per-game guy in the AHL in his 19/20 year-old season; he returned to Europe and had to wait for expansion (six seasons later) before he got a shot.

      NHL teams do miss the ball sometimes. Patrick Thoresen looks *a lot* like a guy that’s worth risking a one-way contract on.

      He’s certainly a much better investment of a one-way deal than others I could name floating around the league.

  • RexLibris

    I was always in Thoresen’s corner when he played here and throughout the NHL.

    For the Oilers, I don’t see a fit right now simply because of the backlog of forwards in the system. Even if you could send him to the AHL if things weren’t working out in Edmonton, there are too many prospects in OKC to warrant booting one of them to Stockton in order to play Thoresen.

    The numbers, from where I sit, just don’t make sense.

    As for Thoresen over Petrell, that is a tough one. Petrell has size and perhaps were we to replace him with Thoresen we’d be guilty of thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.

    From what I remember of watching Thoresen, where he gives up size to Petrell, he gains in speed and quickness. While I’d support adding another hard-working penalty killer, I’m certain there would be a renewed cry from the fan base if they were to sign another smaller player, regardless of his style of game.

  • At 28 he is just hitting his prime–worth a shot,thats what camp is for.We need a guy who can produce offense from the bottom six consistantly .Maybe Thorenson needs prime time minutes so the PPG is really maxing his abilitys out in a perfect scenario.We need a guy who can easily get a ppg in the top six without maxing out ,one who will fit into our bottom six with that skill level and still produce in a less than perfect scenario.
    Or maybe against all odds he would come to camp and flat out take a spot,anything is possible ,right?I think I remember him beong a straight up and down guy who went hard for a shot on every rush finding a way to be a threat one way or another—Im thinking he is like a pitbull in terms of getting something for the rush up-ice and the numbers are showing that tenacity on offense.Very similar to Jones,but Jones gets his nose dirty all over the ice he isnt one dimensional and he offers a ton of leadership already here and would be hard to replace,he has a very positive perspective and is hardworking and passionate about winning,hard things to replace,maybe the two would have a great training camp showdown who knows,I am a huge Jones supporter,but it is what it is.

    Thorenson didnt leave a bad impression here,he was one of those head scratchers like Satan–guys you knew were very good but were here then gone in a flash.

    Really good write-up,thanks.

    • The Soup Fascist

      “We need a guy who can easily get a ppg in the top six without maxing out”

      You do know that exactly six players got 82 or more points in the entire league last year, right?

  • I hope edmonton doesnt bring him back..not that I dont like him but edmonton seems to think they need a Lucic type in their 2nd forward line over a St.Louis type..so instead of getting either types they get a softy with Lucic size potential (paajarvi)..

    Go ahead Calgary, sign him..pull another Glencross on us..

    If Thoreson is given top six minutes..not utility minutes..he would put up solid points..
    Just because he CAN be a servicable utilty player doesnt mean that he should be..

    Over 200 gms in KHL at a PPG speaks for itself..
    Add the fact that he brings Grit, there is zero reasons why he shouldnt be in the NHL.

  • RE: Pay-cut

    This is the piece I was thinking of:

    After acknowledging that he would be taking a significant pay cut from what he earned last season in Russia, Thoresen explained why that didn’t matter:

    “I know I can score 20-25 goals in the NHL. If so, I’m going to earn the lost money and play in the NHL for many years. I have faith in myself and know what kind of potential I have.”

    The one sticking point is that Thoresen wants a one way contract, a deal that will pay him the same amount in the NHL or the AHL.

  • My only issue with his game, was that he seemed slow. He was rarely caught out of position, but never seemed to have that jump that would propel him ahead of the play.

    Good to see that his offensive game is coming around.

    • I haven’t seen a recent quote, but I know a year or two back Thoresen was asked about that. Paraphrasing, he basically said, ‘I know I can score 20-25 goals in the NHL, so I’m willing to take a one-year pay-cut to prove it.’

      Maybe that’s changed, but AFAIK he’s always said that as long as he could get a one-way deal, he’d come back even with the pay-cut.

  • EasyOil

    I would LOVE for him to rejoin the Oil. Always liked him, both as a player and as a person. Like you say, how he hasn’t got a contract in NA again is beyond me.