Tom Wilson Is Proving To Be Much More Than The Washington Capitals Enforcer

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Tom Wilson
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Washington Capitals won, 3-2, in overtime. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

When Tom Wilson was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the 1st round (16th overall), of 2012 Nhl Draft, it was hoped that he would provide a mix of intimidation and skill to the club. Over the first four years of his career, he has mainly been in a lower line role, and not had much chance to show off that skill. The intimidating forward found his role as the team’s enforcer. However, this season Wilson is proving to be much more than that.

Tom Wilson More Than The Washington Capitals Enforcer

The role of the Enforcer has been a diverse topic of discussion for years. Recent documentaries such as “Ice Guardians” is an example of this debate. Opinions are divided, to some its seen as an unnecessary blight on the game, others see it as the very core of it. Either way, the role and the player had to evolve as a result to survive.

When Tom Wilson joined the Washington Capitals, it was an ideal team for him. The tough 6-foot-4  forward joined an elite group that could intimidate on the ice. Initially, however, making big hits and taking punches was all the Canadian winger could do. This gave the young forward the title of an “underwhelming first round pick” during the early years of his career. This season, however, Wilson is finally achieving the balance of both protector and contributor.

Tom Wilson As The Contributor

So far the Ontario native has a career-high, currently standing at 13 Goals, 20 Assists for 31 points after their win against Montreal Canadiens. If Wilson continues at this momentum he will finish the season with almost double the goals and points than any other season.

“I don’t like to set goals and say that I have to hit this number, but I know it was kind of important coming into this year that I needed to help chip in offensively,” Wilson stated on achieving double digits.

So why this year? What has changed for the power forward? It is likely due to a number of factors. But the main reason is being positioned alongside hockey greats Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. With Backstrom’s playmaking skills and Ovechkin’s intimidating presence combined with his mean slapshot, it makes Wilsons job quite simple.

The statistics are evidence of this, although the Ovechkin-Backstrom combination still has a slightly higher percentage of goals without Tom Wilson, they have more shot attempts with him. The duo’s Corsi For Percentage increases with Wilson to 53.5% compared to 51.3%

The 23-year old has thrived with positive influences such as Ovechkin and Backstrom. The young forward, however, has the ability to adapt and contribute when required to any situation. In turn, effectively boosting any line combination. When paired with Evgeny Kuznetsov their Goals For Percentage increases to 61.4%.

All this evidence highlights that this season Wilson has finally pushed through and become noticed as more than just an enforcer, however, has not lost his presence as a tough player.

Tom Wilson As Protector

The 6-foot-4, 218 pound forward was the obvious choice for the Capitals to replace Matt Hendricks when he moved to the Nashville Predators. Using skill as well as strength to win fights against tough opponents. Wilson has totalled 796 penalty minutes in only five years for the Capitals. Although his four-game suspension in the pre-season has given the young Canadian a wake-up call, Wilson has continued to show dominance with 177 penalty minutes this season. Some would argue that this shows lack of discipline, however, it gives opponents a clear message.  Dirty or unsportsmanlike conduct will not go unpunished.

Finally Finding The Balance

The Capitals are a hard-hitting team, and one of the main reasons why Wilson is becoming more and more at home in Washington. Labelled as “villain” initially, the intimidating forward is finally proving to be much more than the team’s enforcer. It’s important to find this balance in today’s hockey era. Otherwise, enforcers will find themselves being left behind.

The Washington Capitals need surprising contributors like Wilson to propel their playoffs push this year. In the last few weeks, the Capitals have been slow and sluggish, with strong players like Wilson performing a career-high, it is hoped they will beat the second round curse this year.

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