This past season, Capitals right wing Tom Wilson saw his role and influence on the team grow and change into something much more prominent than he had been in his first three years in the NHL. Now, with the possibility of losing Top-Six right wings T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to unrestricted free agency, Wilson could see his role jump to a whole new level in 2017-18.
When they drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals envisioned Wilson blossoming into the mold of Milan Lucic, a rugged, physical forward who could also impact games offensively. However, Wilson was heavily underutilized in his first three seasons in the league and he was forced to play fourth-line minutes in an enforcer-like role. But over the last two seasons, Wilson has shown more and more flashes of his offensive potential.
In the 2015-16 season, Wilson recorded a career-high seven goals, 16 assists, and 23 points in 82 games played, while averaging a then career-high of 12:55 minutes a night. This past season, Wilson matched his career-high in goals and finished with 12 assists and 19 points in 82 games played, while setting a new career best with 12:56 minutes of ice time a night. But it was during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs that Wilson showed that he was changing as a player. In 13 games played, Wilson scored three goals, including the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Caps’ first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While three goals in 13 games may not sound that impressive, for a player like Wilson, it is an encouraging sign.
Wilson has also developed into quite an important defensive player for the Capitals as well, as he is one of their best penalty killers and finished with 44 blocked shots, 36 takeaways, and the Capitals goaltenders recorded a .937 save percentage while he was on the ice.
Still just 23-years old, Wilson has not even reached the prime of his career. If he sees his role increase even more next season with the loss of one or both of Williams and Oshie, there is a strong possibility he could become the player the Capitals envisioned he could become when they drafted him five years ago. Given Wilson’s growth in the last two seasons, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t.
By Michael Fleetwood