Tom Wilson is a unique specimen. For a time he seemed like an underwhelming first-round draft pick for the Washington Capitals. He’d garnered a reputation for being a chippy fourth-line player with a passion for physical play. However, Wilson has been showing signs of true hockey ability throughout the Caps’ first-round matchup versus the Leafs. Wilson has been showing Wilson-haters that he’s more than a crash-and-bang wrecking ball on the ice.
Tom Wilson Showing His True Potential
Preceding the Playoffs
Before the playoffs started, it was fair to say Tom Wilson wasn’t looking like a true first-round selection. He had only racked up 69 points in his 313 career NHL games. Those numbers aren’t bad, they’re just not “16th-overall in the first round” good. Joshua Kloke of Sports Illustrated made a valid point about Wilson in his article when he said, “Players like Wilson, a former first-round pick, very often go overlooked throughout the regular season, especially on a Capitals roster so loaded with firepower.”
It’s tough to emerge on a team that’s stacked form top to bottom. Wilson’s always had a different way of playing compared to most younger players entering the league. He’s always forechecked hard and he’s definitely always hit hard. He just hasn’t necessarily been able to deliver offensively.
Instead, he’s always played a mature game at a young age. He’s become a valuable penalty killer for the Capitals and was a plus-player during the regular season. There can be no doubt that he’s matured since he first joined the league. However, as of late, the one they call “Willy” has been starting to show his true value.
Emerging as an Asset
Maybe it’s because he’s playing in his hometown. Maybe it’s because he’s got family and friends at the game even when he’s on the road. Whatever it is, Tom Wilson has had a fire under him that has yet to be put out. He’s been one of the highlights throughout this tight-knit series. It started with his insane-angle overtime winner in Game 1. It came out-of-nowhere and propelled him into Canadian headlines and made him an enemy in his old stomping ground. A title he’s long grown used to in every other city he visits as well. That overtime winner turned heads, but there was more to come from Wilson.
Toronto and their fans were sure they were about to close the gap between the Capitals to one goal in game 4. T.J. Oshie, and Alexander Ovechkin had scored early to make the game 2-0, and the Leafs were on the attack. Morgan Rielly put a shot on net that trickled past Braden Holtby and was rolling across the line — that is until a heads-up Wilson dove into the net and kept the puck out. This was/is potentially the save of the series. It was made even greater by the fact that Wilson, on the same shift, deflected a Lars Eller shot into the Toronto net to expand the Capitals lead to 3-1 in the first period.
He followed that up with another goal in the first to give the Caps their fourth of the period. This put him at three goals in four games. He was the story of this game, and also the hero.
Playoffs are a crazy time. It’s a time that anyone can step up and be the hero. Players who normally fly under the radar like Zack Kassian have stepped up for the Oilers, and a fourth-liner like Tom Wilson has been pivotal for the Washington Capitals. Will he play this well next season? Who can say. As of right now, he’s living up to his draft pick and his two-year $2 million extension he signed this past off-season. One thing is for sure, however; Mike Babcock may have spoke too soon when he said the Toronto Maple Leafs did not need to worry about Wilson.