Tom Wilson: Goon or Endearing Emergent Superstar?
We heard it all and saw it all with right winger Tom Wilson this season. He led the team in penalty minutes in the regular season (133) and in the playoffs (34). This did not always endear him to fans or to Coach Barry Trotz.
To balance against the his penalty minutes we would like to say he made up for it with points in the regular season but in reality he only had seven goals and 12 assists (19 points). This is a drop from the previous year of seven goals, 16 assists (23 points). He did have fewer minutes in the box with 163 minutes in the 2015/16 season, so that’s something.
Tom is a big guy, 6’4”, 215 pounds. The 23 year-old uses every muscle he has in every shift he plays. He throws his whole body forward—weather into a creating a scoring chance or body slamming an opponent. And he usually does it with a bit of smirk, while endears him to the fans in Verizon Center!
Tom Wilson is by far a Caps fan favorite. Twitter is full of references to him, which from the Caps family are usually pretty positive. In a short fan poll, our friends told us:
- He was “more than just the dude in the penalty box all the time.”
- He is “heading in the right direction”
- “Tom definitely ‘grew up’ this season. His intent was to change his ‘bad boy’ image and to try to become known more as a hard player. He did.”
- “Definitely an improvement. See him here for the long run and not just due to his hits”
- “He needs to let his hockey do the talking.”
Seems like almost every game someone is trying to get him to ask her out (his girlfriend would likely object.) He is always generous with fans, stopping to take photos, sign memorabilia, or to just chat. He is more than a pretty face, he is a nice guy who has endeared himself to fans on and off the ice for his tenacity and his charm.
Opponents don’t feel the same way as Caps fans. From them we get: scumbag, trash, thug, dirty, goon, and out of control. And those are the nicer things that have been said. There is little doubt that Willy leaves a lasting mark in every game he plays—and they aren’t always bruises! He is a powerhouse that blocks shots, knocks players off their skates, and jumps in to defend his fellow teammates. We can understand why people outside of Washington would ‘dislike’ him.
The Caps drafted Wilson in the first round as 16th overall in 2012. The NHL.com said in his initial profile that he was voted “Best Body Checker” in the OHL’s 2012 Western Conference Coaches Poll and was a runner up for the “Hardest Worker” distinction, as a player for the Plymouth Whalers. Following the draft he played three games with the Hershey Bears, scoring one goal. He was first called up by the Caps for the second round of Game 5 in the NHL playoffs against the NY Rangers. In June 2016, as a restricted free agent (RFA), he signed a $4 million two-year extension with the Capitals. He would earn $1.75 million the first season and $2.25 million in the upcoming season. He will be an RFA again in 2018.
When it comes to the recent playoffs, he had a few missteps. He spent way too much time in the penalty box. Granted he probably still has a bit of a target on his back, especially after he showed the hockey world that he can score too. This first round pick has proven he can be a valuable asset for the Caps as they ‘rebuild’ the team. He is one of the many younger players who likely will be the faction that brings home the Cup to DC. The Caps need his brand of physical play and they need the toughness of a man determined to write a new story of a power player in front of the net. We expect to see him continue to improve as a player as he balances the grit as a fighter and hit with that of a high scoring forward. He has had some great opportunities in the regular season and the playoffs and he always seem able to make the most of them. We’ll see what happens with the change and if his role increases in the 2017 season.