Akil Thomas is the first member of his family to get drafted into the NHL, but he is by no means the only one to pop up on the pro radar. Akil’s father, Kahlil, and uncle Leo both played in the Southern Pro League while also getting cracks at the ECHL and AHL, among other minor circuits. And both now coach: Kahlil as an assistant for the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits and Leo with the SPHL’s Macon Mayhem.
All three are originally from Toronto, and Akil currently plays in the OHL for the Niagara IceDogs. He was considered a potential first-rounder in 2018 but ended up slipping to 51st overall, where Los Angeles snapped him up. Having his dad (and uncle) on hand for draft weekend certainly helped: “My dad didn’t get drafted into the NHL, so we were both new to the experience,” Thomas said. “But thinking I was going higher and dealing with that, he helped because he had ups and downs in his career.”
Trailing his hockey-playing dad around the American South may be an experience unique to Thomas, but it’s one he’s glad he had. “I didn’t go to daycare – I went to practice,” he said. “I would nap while they got ready and then go on the ice after. It actually might have been key to my development. Hockey grew in me.”
Follow this itinerary: Thomas was born in Toronto, then moved to Mississippi, Flint, Oklahoma, Orlando, Jacksonville, back to Orlando, then back to Toronto so he could concentrate on his own fledgling career.
With the IceDogs last season, Thomas was an offensive engine, forming great chemistry with Edmonton Oilers prospect Kirill Maksimov while scoring 81 points in 68 games. Thomas can play center, but the defensive side of his game is still a work in progress and, ultimately, he might be better on the wing. Early on, that’s what the Kings are thinking. “They see me as a winger, and that’s cool,” Thomas said. “If I can wear an L.A. Kings jersey one day, I definitely want to do it. Whatever I can do to help the organization.”
Thanks to his dad and uncle, the kid certainly knows about paying his dues.