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When Capitals right wing Tom Wilson was handed a four-game suspension before the start of this season, one that he was/is expected to take on a more offensive role than he had played in his first three seasons in the NHL, it left many wondering whether the rugged, former first-round pick (16th overall in 2012) would ever be able to become more than the physical, enforcer-like player that had characterized his career to that point. Since returning from that suspension, however, the 23-year old Wilson is showing he has what it takes.
In what was perhaps his best game so far this season, Wilson made his presence felt against the Boston Bruins in the Capitals’ 3-2 win at TD Garden last night, scoring two goals and delivering three hits, while finishing with a plus-2 rating in 14:12 of ice time. In just 10 games this season, he has four points (two goals, two assists). Wilson’s offensive potential shone through this past spring in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when in the Capitals’ first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wilson scored three goals in six games, including the Game 1 overtime winner. Including the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Wilson has five goals in his last 23 games, and prior to the playoffs, scored one goal in his final four regular season games, which means he finished last season with six goals in his final 27 games played.
While two goals in 10 games may not sound impressive, Wilson has been shooting the puck at a much better rate than normal. Through his first 10 games, Wilson has scored on 13.3% of his shots, which far exceeds his career average of 6.6%. Wilson has also been finding himself in more offensive situations as well, as the Caps start in the offensive zone 53.1% of the time Wilson is on the ice, and have a 12.7% shooting percentage when he is on the ice. The Capitals drafted Wilson with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft with the vision that he could become a player in the mold of veteran NHLer Milan Lucic, who has become known for being a tough, physical player that can put up points. In Wilson’s final year in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Wilson put up 58 points (23 goals, 35 assists) in 48 games played. The Caps brought him to the NHL as a 19-year old, and heavily-underutilized him, hampering his development and forcing Wilson to use his fists rather than his offensive potential.
In the final year of a two-year contract, Wilson has shown he is committed to improving his offensive numbers. Head Coach Barry Trotz stated before the season that he expects Wilson to reach the 20-goal mark, and so far Wilson is doing what he can to reach that plateau, as he is currently on pace for 16 goals, 16 assists, and a career-high 32 points. After years of being labeled as a draft “bust”, Wilson is doing everything right offensively to change that and showing that he is capable of making an offensive impact for the Caps.
By Michael Fleetwood