Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson appeared on the Cam and Strick Podcast recently and discussed how much D.C., the team, and the fans mean to him, playing hockey early in his career, the draft day experience, and his evolution from playing on the fourth line to being a top-line winger and Stanley Cup Champion while juggling several suspensions.
Wilson, Washington, and Winning the Stanley Cup
While Wilson is staying in Toronto with his girlfriend Taylor Pischke and his younger brother during the NHL Pause, he acknowledged his love and appreciation for Washington, calling the city a “second home for sure”. Ever since he was drafted, it has been a great experience from the organization and team to fans who pay their respects, according to Wilson.
He talked a bit about his teammates and the special dynamic they all share. “We come to the rink every day and have fun,” Wilson said. Captain Alex Ovechkin has a good time during practice, but it’s “amplified to the max” after they have won a game.
Wilson praises Ovechkin for managing the pressure of being a captain such as scoring goals every game, getting those two points at the end of the night, and handling the heavy media presence; however, he mentioned Ovechkin loves to let loose. “He’s not gonna miss a team party, that’s for sure.”
He did not know much about fellow right-winger T.J. Oshie before he was traded to Washington from the St. Louis Blues in 2015. Wilson calls Oshie “one of the best on the ice, off the ice guys that you can have in an organization”. Mentioning the championship parade and their famous and unusual pre-game rituals, they are best buddies and he complimented Oshie as a hard competitor, especially from the Cup run. “When the puck drops, he’s just an animal.”
We all remember where we were on June 7, 2018. Wilson noted there was “definitely a big spike when we won [The Stanley Cup]”. He called the 2017-18 team a “pretty special group of guys” during their postseason run, leading the Capitals franchise to their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship.
Barry Trotz coached the Capitals from 2014 to 2018, going 205-89-34 with the Capitals, winning three division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, a Jack Adams Award, and the Stanley Cup. Wilson expressed his respect for the former head coach during the Cup run. “He brought in a great support staff of coaches,” Wilson said. Trotz left the team after a contract dispute just over a week after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup and was hired by the New York Islanders.
Early Hockey Career
Way before winning the Stanley Cup and getting drafted to the Capitals, Wilson discussed his early hockey career. When he was a kid, Wilson and his friends had a backyard rink from a ravine that took up space on three properties and played hockey. He played for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). During the OHL playoffs in his draft year, Wilson made a name for himself such as picking up points, getting recognition and receiving positive feedback.
2012 NHL Entry Draft
The 2012 NHL Entry Draft took place in Pittsburgh, home of the Penguins and the Capitals’ biggest rival. Wilson was drafted to Washington in the first round (16th overall). He called his draft day experience a “whirlwind of memories and emotions”, but said, “that’s the dream come true”. As a first-round prospect, Wilson expressed it was a “vote of confidence” that would help grow his game every year.
His Player Evolution
Recently, Wilson has been a top-line forward and scored over 20 goals in the past two seasons. He is known for fighting and his physicality, which has often been criticized and has lead to in-person hearings and game suspensions. Going back to his first few seasons with the Capitals, Wilson played on the fourth-line, adding he had to play very well and hoped to make a hit or fight to give the team some momentum.
The preseason gives young players, NHL-level players, and AHL-contending players a chance to get on the ice, get noticed, and prepare for the regular season. Wilson has made significant hits during preseason play. He explained that during the summer, you train to get faster and stronger, and “when you put on the jersey, it’s go-time” ultimately playing as hard as he can.
One notable preseason hit was to the head of Blues forward, Oskar Sundqvist on September 30, 2018. He was ejected from the game and offered an in-person hearing. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced he was suspended for 20 games. Wilson’s suspension was later reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator in which he was eligible to play in the Capitals’ next game but the decision was made after Wilson already sat out for 16 games.
He was asked if his style changed or adapted for the better after that suspension.”I think for sure. You’d be stupid not to change,” Wilson replied. He said it was a “crazy experience” that he took day-by-day. You learn from it and “adjust as a player”, according to the 26-year old. Wilson knows there are certain hits to avoid adding, “Control what you can is the biggest thing.”
You can listen to the full episode below. Wilson jumps on at the 18:45 mark.
By Della Young