When the Washington Capitals drafted Tom Wilson 16th overall in 2012, they were expecting their own version of Milan Lucic. A player with the right amount of edge and offense.
After scoring a career high 22 goals and 40 points in 2018-2019, it appeared that Tom Wilson was beginning to fulfill that offensive potential. He managed this output while maintaining an edge that comes with his unusual combination of speed and size. Wilson was second on the Capitals with exactly 200 hits, marking the fifth time he broke that amount for a season. His ability to apply those hits improves the Capitals forecheck and their ability to impose the right kind of pressure on the opposition, resulting in optimum scoring chances.
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This is the reason the Capitals drafted Wilson midway through the first round that year, but what they received over the last year and a half is not what they got in the first five years of his career. Those years were riddled with several questionable hits resulting most of the time in suspensions, as well as the propensity to drop the gloves frequently preventing him from finding his offensive touch. Wilson has dropped the gloves a total of 64 times in the regular and postseason starting in 2013-2014, with only six of those occurring last season during his offensive outburst. His last fight being against Erik Cernak of the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 30th.
The most notable suspension happened at the start of last season where he was suspended 20 games for a head shot on Oskar Sundqvist of the St. Louis Blues in preseason action. The penalty was later reduced to 14 games, which seemed to be enough to wake up Wilson. He was able to make the necessary adjustments and find the right amount of edge deemed acceptable by the league while not toying with being suspended again. This gave him his best offensive year to date, or so we thought.
This season he has taken it up another level from last year, in 20 games played this season he has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points. This puts Wilson on pace to break the 60 point mark for the first time in his career, which would most likely make him a 30 goal scorer. While still making his presence known with 49 hits, putting him on pace to break 200 hits again. While he has managed to stay out of the penalty box with only 18 PIM to date, this puts him on pace for around 72 PIM on the year that would mark his lowest amount for a season by more than 50 PIM.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I think having a 60 point player with the ability to impose his will on the opposition is a steal at just over $5 million a year. Wilson has found the next level in his game, thanks to his involvement with the top two lines. The presence of other heavy hitters such as Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas in the lineup also helps keep him from being the first to drop the gloves when necessary, Wilson has yet to fight in the 2019-2020 season. The rest of the league should be worried that Wilson has found the right blend of edge while not risking his offensive presence, which seems to only be growing.