Alex Brandon/Associated Press
After signing right wing Tom Wilson to a two-year, $4 million contract this offseason, the Capitals expected the former first-round pick to play more and produce more. Through nine games, Wilson is playing more than he ever has before.
Through the first nine games of the 2016-17 season, Wilson is averaging 12:31 minutes of ice time and 18.2 shifts per game. Although his offensive production is low (one goal through nine games), his current linemates (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson) offer him a chance to play with top-notch offensive players.
Wilson’s style of play and his mentality have also changed noticeably from seasons past. In his first three seasons, Wilson was primarily known for his physical, sometimes controversial style of play. While he still is willing to dish out hits, Wilson is no longer focusing on JUST hitting. He is crowding the goal crease more and is usually the one driving to the net for any possible rebound chances. While his efforts haven’t been rewarded thus far, the more he plants himself in front, the more likely it is he gets those chances.
Wilson’s goal coming into this season was to prove he is more than just a hitting machine. The Caps drafted him with the expectation he could become a player like Milan Lucic. While his offense to this point hasn’t been Lucic-esque, Wilson’s expanded role and new style of play means there is plenty of good fortune coming his way. NoVa Caps looks back at each game and his performance in them.
10/13/16 vs Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Time- 5:31 on 11 shifts
Overview: In the first game of the season, against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Wilson saw little ice time, starting the season on the fourth-line….again. His linemates for the game were Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik. Wilson had three hits, no shots, and five PIM, while finishing with an even plus/minus rating. The Capitals used their top three lines far more than the fourth, but even still, Wilson did not generate much in the way of offensive chances.
10/15/16 vs New York Islanders Ice Time- 11:26 on 17 shifts
Overview: In the second game of the season, Wilson saw his ice time increase dramatically. The fourth-line carried the Caps to a 2-1 win, as Daniel Winnik scored two goals. Wilson himself had a solid performance, playing sound defense while registering one shot, one hit, and plus-2 rating.
10/18/16 vs Colorado Avalanche Ice Time- 11:44 on 18 shifts
Overview: Wilson’s ice time continued to climb, as he played 11:44 on 18 shifts. In a Capitals victory, Wilson registered one shot, an even plus/minus rating, two hits, and one blocked shot. Wilson also saw regular penalty kill time.
10/20/16 vs Florida Panthers Ice Time- 14:01 on 22 shifts
Overview: Despite offensive struggles by the entire team, Wilson saw what was then, a season-high 14:01 minutes of ice time and a season-high 22 shifts. Wilson’s overall performance wasn’t particularly impressive, as he recorded just a single shot while delivering only one hit and one shot.
10/22/16 vs New York Rangers Ice Time- 11:39
Overview: In a second consecutive loss, Wilson had a relatively poor performance, registering just one shot and four hits in a 5-2 loss. While he continued to see regular penalty kill time and played good defensively, his offensive game just wasn’t there. As a whole, the Capitals at that time were struggling.
10/26/16 vs Edmonton Oilers Ice Time- 13:33 on 19 shifts
Overview: In the Caps’ third consecutive loss, Wilson failed yet again to generate any offense, registering two shots and blocking two shots in 13:33 minutes. The two shots were an improvement, but unless he converted, Wilson would not be able to get the boost he needed offensively.
10/29/16 vs Vancouver Canucks Ice Time- 16:25 on 22 shifts
Overview: After three straight losses and a mediocre offensive performance, Head Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his lineup. Wilson was now playing on a second-line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. For Wilson, the move turned out to be extremely beneficial. In a season-high 16:25 of ice time, Wilson had his best offensive performance thus far, scoring his first goal of the season on two shots, while registering three hits and a plus-2 rating.
10/30/16 vs Calgary Flames Ice Time- 16:09 on 21 shifts
Overview: After a strong showing in his first game in the Top 6, Wilson played 16:09 on 21 shifts. While he did not score again, he continued to drive to the net and registered three hits and one shot while he continued playing with Johansson and Kuznetsov.
11/1/16 vs Winnipeg Jets Ice Time- 12:07 on 17 shifts
Overview: In the Caps’ third straight win, Wilson saw his ice time drop to just 12:07 minutes. While he failed to register a point, Wilson was key in drawing defenders away from Johansson, who put a beautiful Kuznetsov pass behind Connor Hellebucyk. Wilson recorded three shots and three hits while registering a plus-1 rating.
Tom Wilson’s stats through nine games:
By Michael Fleetwood