The Washington Capitals made a wise decision at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, selecting Tom Wilson 16th overall. Since then, Wilson has flourished into one of Washington’s most unique assets on the bottom-six: a hybrid between a point scorer and enforcer.
The Evolution of Tom Wilson
In the locker room, and on and off the ice, Wilson has taken on on many roles. When he first came in, he was a kid looking for a roster spot. Then, during a 2014 match against the Nashville Predators, he glared at Rich Clune after he hurt one of his fellow teammates. From there on out, it was known that Wilson would start to bring the pain to his opponents.
Since then, Wilson has dropped the gloves multiple times, and all those bloody knuckles and thrown punches have made him a force to be reckoned with. Now, 231 games and three seasons later, he has racked up an astounding 486 PIM, 50 points (14 G, 36 A) and 41 fights. Out of those, he has won 19, and 13 of those fights ended in a draw. Throughout his entire career, Wilson has only lost 10 fights in his entire career. Eight of the 41 brawls drew blood.
Looking at his body makeup, Wilson is built to hit and built to throw punches. Towering at 6-foot-4 and coming in at a whopping 215 pounds, Wilson is the tallest player on the Capitals’ roster, and the third heaviest, behind Brooks Orpik and Alex Ovechkin.
In his development over the years, however, Wilson has been unique in the sense that he is not just focused on dropping the gloves and winning fights. He is working on all aspects of his game, and it shows in his development over the years.
A Look at the Numbers
Wilson is the type of player who can play with grit and has the potential to contribute a lot more, while also playing a hit-filled, tough game. And more offense is what the Capitals are expecting from the 22-year-old, who just signed a two-year, $4 million extension with the team.
“We’re anticipating his offensive game to continue to grow,” General Manager Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post of Wilson. “…He needs to show that he can handle it. The coaches, they express what they’re looking for from him to be put in more of those situations. If he can come in and do well, he’ll get more responsibility on the offensive side.”
When it comes to his offensive game, Wilson has flourished in such category. He has started shooting the puck more, tallying 99 shots this past season. Wilson is also a player who does not turn over the puck as much, which is another strong sign.
However, where Wilson’s flaw lies is the fact that he struggles with possession. This past season, his relative Corsi sat at -5.8, which is far from impressive, given Washington’s impressive defensive depth and the fact that he skates bottom-six minutes.
Wilson’s career Corsi-for percentage sits under 50 percent, and it is easy to see that when he is on the ice, Washington spends more time in the defensive zone and faces a lot of shots. This is an area that Wilson needs to improve in, but he must also work to make more contributions on a team famous for its lethal offense.
For a player who averages over five shots per 60 minutes, Wilson is definitely working toward scoring more and making more contributions, but the goals are surprisingly not coming. He is going to have to focus on his shooting, and if this means pulling back when it comes to fighting, then so be it. If he works on crashing the net and getting more involved on the offensive rush, the points will come.
If Wilson can make this push forward, which he has the full potential to do considering his superb development over the years, he can go from a bottom-six enforcer to one of Washington’s unique hybrids that combines grit and offensive ability.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.