For those who’ve not heard of Akil Thomas, meet the new icon of hockey in Canada.
The 20 year-old from Scarborough, a star in the Ontario Hockey League with the Niagara Ice Dogs, etched his name in the annals of the sport in the gold medal game of World Junior Hockey against Russia with 3:58 mins. left in regulation when he jumped on a loose puck in the opposing end of the ice, sneaked past a defenseman and tucked it past the Russian net-minder.
The goal secured a 4-3 victory over the tough Russian team and earned Canada the gold medal of the tournament, which was played in the Czech Republic.
The victory shines the spotlight on a young man who has all the attributes to become one of hockey’s next superstars.
Thomas, a center, who celebrated his 20th birthday on January 2, is captain of the Ice Dogs and a regular member of the national team representing Canada at both the Under 17 and Under 18 levels in the past.
He holds dual citizenship with Canada and the United States and has chosen to represent Canada internationally.
After a spectacular career in the junior hockey leagues, GTHL and OJHL, he moved to the OHL as one of its most promising prospects.
He was carded to be a first-round draft pick in the NHL’s 2018 Entry Draft, but as it has been for so many young Black prospects, he was chosen 51st in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings.
After the obvious slight, Akil has pledged to one day make those teams that overlooked him regret it.
So far he has attended the King’s rookie camp, and the team signed Thomas to a three-year, entry-level contract on March 16, 2019.
Akil was born in Toronto, but spent a good chunk of his life in the United States as his dad Kahlil Thomas travelled around playing minor hockey with the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate St. John’s Maple Leafs. He is an assistant coach for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL, a mid-level professional hockey league with teams from across the United States and Canada.
Like the American Hockey League it is affiliated with the NHL.
His mother Akilah Thomas, from the US and of Barbadian heritage, together with her husband was a part owner of a minor league hockey team.
His uncle, Leo Thomas, was also an outstanding prospect in minor hockey. Today, he is the only Black head coach in professional hockey in North America with the Macon Mayhem of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Akil Thomas joins legends like Paul Henderson, Darryl Sittler, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby who scored winning goals for Team Canada.
Upon his return home he told reporters that he had a hunch that he would score the winning gold.
“I just felt like my time was coming.”
“I had a feeling Dale (head coach Dale Hunter) was going to call my name,” he said . “After the game, Dale mentioned he thought I was going to score. That’s why he put me out there.
“I was just destined to score.”