Photo: Adam Hunger/Associated Press
While the Capitals’ season ended in less than spectacular fashion, it was not without bright spots. One such highlight was the career season put on by right wing Tom Wilson, who bounced back from an early-season suspension to become one of the Caps’ most valuable offensive contributors and best players.
After being met with constant scrutiny outside of Washington for his physical play, an early, 20-game suspension caused Wilson to truly reinvent himself as a player, forcing him to develop and improve his offensive skills while still maintaining his physical presence on the ice, physicality that has always been an aspect of his game. And to Wilson’s credit, the former first-round pick (16th overall in 2012) responded to his ban with a season the Capitals had been waiting for since his first season in 2013-14.
In 63 games played, Wilson scored a career-high 22 goals and recorded a career best 40 points, finishing with a plus-11 rating while averaging a career-high 18:09 of ice time a night for Head Coach Todd Reirden. Wilson also saw time on the power play at times throughout the season, scoring three times with the man-advantage. Wilson also excelled in the faceoff dot, winning 54.7% of the draws he took this season. In the Capitals’ seven-game first round series against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Wilson finished fourth on the team in scoring with five points and third with three goals in the seven games.
But perhaps most impressive about Wilson’s performance this season was how smartly he played when it came to the physical side of his game. While there is denying Wilson will always be a physical presence on the ice, after his suspension, the 25-year old forward curbed his physicality by making better decisions on when to deliver a hit and as a result of this, he was able to be more effective on the offensive side of the puck.
Defensively, Wilson continued to be a valuable member of the Capitals’ penalty kill, averaging 2:14 of penalty kill time, good enough for sixth-most highest on the Capitals during the regular season. Additionally, he ranked seventh on the team with 52 blocked shots this season.
With five seasons remaining on the six-year contract he signed after the 2017-18 season, Wilson should remain a valuable contributor in the Caps’ lineup for the foreseeable future, providing a blend of offense and physicality that the Capitals’ readily welcome. Wilson’s evolution and reinvention as a player has been something that has been truly amazing to watch and not yet in the prime of his career, the possibility to get better is there for No. 43.
By Michael Fleetwood