Former Leafs' son rising OHL star

ROGER LAJOIE, SPECIAL TO SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

OSHAWA -- Like father, like son.

Steve Thomas carved out a 20-season career as an NHL forward, even though he wasn't drafted into the Ontario Hockey League or the National Hockey League. But the former Maple Leafs winger beat the odds with his hard work ethic and a good scoring touch.

And while it's too early in his son Christian's career to predict what kind of career in pro hockey he still has ahead of him, it's already obvious that there's a lot of Steve Thomas in Christian Thomas.

The elder Thomas stands 5-foot-11, 185 pounds while his son is even smaller at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds. But the Oshawa Generals scoring star is showing he can survive the pounding a player takes at the OHL level the same way his dad did as a pro.

Christian was held without a goal for just the second time in his past seven games last night as the Generals edged the Belleville Bulls 4-3 in overtime before 4,543 fans at the General Motors Centre.

Calvin de Haan scored the shootout winner as the Gens won their third in a row.

Alain Berger, Jeff Brown and de Haan on a penalty shot in regulation scored for Oshawa while Andy Bathgate, Luke Judson and Michael Curtis replied for the Bulls.

Thomas, a first-round draft pick of the London Knights and part of the huge John Tavares-Michael Del Zotto deal last year, now has 28 points in 29 games to lead his team. He has six goals in seven games since turning in a solid effort for Team OHL at the Subway Series against the Russians recently.

While the younger Thomas still has a lot to work on before he tries to have an NHL career as his dad did, he knows he can count on his father for ongoing support.

"He's a huge factor in my life," Christian said yesterday. "He played in the NHL for 20 years and he's taught me so much, especially how to bounce back when things don't go the way you want them to. He tells me what I need to work on in my game to get better. He's a great resource for me."

The elder Thomas spends a lot of time watching his son develop.

"Getting a chance to play in the Subway series was a real honour for him and he's scoring at this level. I just keep reminding him about where he needs to improve and rebounding after you run into some adversity.

"I had the career I did by working hard and making sure I bounced back, and I want the same thing for him."

Oshawa's coach and general manager Chris DePiero says Thomas' influence on Christian is obvious.

"That's the example for him, that's the example for everybody about what hard work is all about. Steve Thomas," DePiero says. "Anyone can see what dedication and perseverance did for Steve in his great career and Christian sees that every day.

"Christian was one of the best players in that Russian game and it showed him that he can compete at this level against some of the very best players in the league.

"I give him a lot of credit for the way he's playing since then, and a lot of that obviously comes from who is father is."


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