Thomas Ebbing had the Twitterverse talking last Friday night when he finished a remarkable solo effort in style against the Maple Leafs’ young guns in Toronto.
After turning defenseman Timothy Liljegren inside out, the 22-year-old centerman went upstairs on goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo for the opening goal of the game in a 5-2 victory.
It was one of a team-leading three goals the Troy, MI native ended up scoring during the 2017 Rookie Tournament at Ricoh Coliseum with the Canadiens’ brass looking on from the stands.
“It’s probably the most skillful goal I’ve ever scored – at least in the past five or six years. It definitely was nice to get. It was good to get the monkey off the back,” said Ebbing, who signed a one-year, two-way free-agent contract (AHL/ECHL) with the Canadiens on May 26th. “People don’t really look at me as an offensive threat, but I know I have it in my game. From that goal, you can see a little bit of the spark, but it’s something that I’d like to build off of. It was definitely a confidence booster. I think confidence goes a long way in this game.”
It most certainly does, especially if you’re in the position that Ebbing finds himself in right now – embarking on his first training camp experience alongside 60 other players at the Bell Sports Complex beginning with on-ice work on Friday.
With development camp and rookie camp in the rearview mirror, the Michigan State University product is eager to soak up everything that the next challenge has to offer.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot. There are some nerves in your stomach, but you’re playing with the best guys in the world. You’re going up against players like Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. What I’m looking forward to most is learning as much as I can,” mentioned Ebbing, who registered 55 points (14g, 41a) in 143 career games over four seasons with the Spartans. “It’s my first main camp. I’m just going to try to compete, stick to my game and show what I can do.”
Ebbing spent the offseason back home in Michigan training with a few familiar faces he’ll actually be sharing the ice with in the days to come.
“This summer was a big summer for me. I was able to skate with a lot of pros. Being from Michigan, there’s so much talent. I skated with Zach Redmond and Matt Taormina. I did this thing called TPH (Total Package Hockey) back home twice a week. It was a lot of skill work and I was with the pro group. It was nice to watch some of the skill guys out there and learn from them. Petry was there, too,” explained Ebbing, on the unique training opportunity. “I think that helped play a part in making my summer as good as it was leading into the year.”
Ebbing and Taormina actually have some history already.
“I’ve known Matt for many years. I played in a great summer league with him and we were teammates. I signed with the Canadiens before he signed here. I was here for development camp when I saw his name pop up on TSN that he had signed with Montreal, so I texted him right away,” said Ebbing, who along with Taormina is one of six Michiganders participating in main camp this year. “I’ve seen Matt around the rink lately. It’s nice to see a friendly face.”
If Ebbing is primed to get things started for real, the same can be said for his father, John, who the young forward calls his “biggest supporter” – along with his mom, Bridget, of course. Both were in attendance to see Ebbing’s recent outings in Toronto.
“My dad calls himself “The Road Dog” because he’d always come to our games on the road when I was at MSU. Out of the 35 games we played each year, I’d say he was there for at least 30 of them. He takes a lot of vacation days on it. It’s something that he really loves. This is a part of his dream, too. He’s living it a bit vicariously through me. He’s pushed me every day to be a better man and a better hockey player,” confided Ebbing, noting that his father played Division III hockey at Northwood University in Michigan.
“He’s always loved the game. He’s the one who started me on it. I have another brother, John, who played high school hockey and then played club at Western Michigan University, so it’s always been kind of a religion at home. I played every sport I could growing up, but something about hockey drew me in,” added Ebbing.
And, he’s hoping to put that passion on full display in the pros with an eye on earning a roster spot with the Canadiens someday.
“Putting on that Habs sweater for the first time at the rookie tournament really makes you want it more and being around all these talented guys makes you want to work harder. Hopefully, it’s not the last time I throw on a Habs sweater,” said Ebbing. “I’m not looking too far in the future, but I’d love to call this place home someday. It just makes me want to be a member of the Habs for life.”