When Tom Wilson was drafted 16th overall in the 2012 draft out of the Plymouth Whalers organization (OHL), initial reactions from both national and local media were of a highly-rated prospect with a huge physical presence. As most scouts and coaches know, those expectations also come with the thoughts that the player might be over-rated.
Early in his NHL career, Tom Wilson was known for his bone crushing hits and while effective, they were also considered highly controversial by most coaches and players around the league who overlooked his potential offensive touch. Although Wilson’s offensive stats from the 2012-13 season to the end of the 2016-17 campaign were nothing to call home about, he and the Capitals remained optimistic that his numbers would increase. During that timeframe all of the talk about his offensive production was heavily overshadowed as people increasingly focused attention on his physical play. Whether that was fair or not will always be a topic for discussion.
Furthermore, during the 2017-18 run to Washingtons first Stanley Cup in franchise history, a hit on Zach Ashton-Reese of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins would change the complexation of that fateful second round series. The hit in question resulted in a three-game suspension for Wilson and a full-on perception change around the league about the type of player Wilson was becoming.
During the final game of the 2018-19 preseason, Wilson delivered a huge open ice hit to St. Louis Blues winger Oskar Sundqvist, which was considered the “last straw” for the Department of Player Safety. George Paros handed him a 20-game suspension, which up until eight games ago, was all the hockey world would be talking about when the Tom Wilson was brought up in conversation.
During his suspension Wilson wasn’t just laying on his couch waiting for the day he could lace em’ up again with his Capitals teammates. He was being the student of the game we all know and love. He was watching video, working out, skating at practice, and becoming a more complete top six forward.
Then on the morning of November 13, the NHL neutral arbitrator gave Tom Wilson the news he was waiting for: it’s game day! Since his return, he has been on fire with 12 points in eight games and he has this Capitals team once again playing the brand of hockey that won them Lord Stanley’s Cup.
From the moment Tom Wilson made his NHL debut against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the 2012-13 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, he has shown just how much of an impact he has on the entire Capitals organization from owner Ted Leonsis to future NHL star forward and Caps prospect Kody Clark. Tom Wilson has staying power and will continue to be a leader for this team.