DC Sports Day

Twenty One Year Old Wilson Big Contributor to Win In Nashville

Wilson In

(Twitter: @washcaps)

When Tom Wilson was drafted by the Capitals at 16th overall in the first round of the 2012 draft, it was for his toughness, not for his goal scoring ability. The team had already selected Filip Forsberg, a young Swede who had huge offensive upside. Wilson was described as being the hardest hitter in the draft, able to fight, and skate, but with limited ability carrying the puck. And his stats since turning pro in 2013 reveal lots of penalty minutes, but Wilson has never recorded more than 20 points per season.

But last night, during Washington’s 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, Wilson showed that he may have more offensive upside than he previously was given credit for. He posted a goal and an assist, along with the expected three hits that he delivered to Predators’ players. As an aside, he also won two out of three offensive zone face offs.

Forsberg scored in the contest too–for Nashville, the team he was traded to in April of 2013 (lets not go into the fact that Washington only got Martin Erat and Michael Latta in return–for right now, lets focus on the player they kept, Tom Wilson).

Watching Wilson last night, several thoughts came to mind. First, that it is well known in the industry that a player generally does not fully mature until he is approximately 23 years old. It is why NHL draft reviews are not done until five years after selections, and probably why entry-level contracts for players coming out of the Canadian Hockey League usually last until the player hits age 23. It is at that point, that teams pretty much know what they have in players that come from major junior hockey. (College players have a somewhat different trajectory, to be discussed at another time.)

So, it is very likely that the 21 year-old Wilson is not fully developed. Wilson first appeared in a Capitals’ uniform during the spring 2013 playoffs, when he was 19 years old. He began playing for Washington as a full-time roster player the following fall, while still 19. This in itself is unusual, as most players spend two years post-draft developing in the CHL. However, Wilson was physically and mentally ready to join the Caps at 19 years old. Now in his third full season in an NHL uniform, we tend to think of Wilson as a veteran player, but he is not.

My second thought, related to the first is that Wilson may have more offensive upside than originally thought. This season he has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 52 games. He also has accumulated 113 penalty minutes. We got glimpses last night that Wilson’s offensive potential may have been underrated–putting the puck on Jason Chimera’s stick for the first goal of the game, and then skating down the ice with Marcus Johansson and one timing the puck past Pekka Rinne in the Pred’s goal for the game’s second goal.

Although it would take more scoring than Wilson was involved with to beat the Preds last night (including Alex Ovechkin’s empty netter to post his 31st goal of the season), Wilson showed us some skills last night that may be the tip of the iceberg. Time will tell if he becomes as much of an offensive threat as he is a physical presence, but we just don’t know yet. All I am saying is don’t mistake his status as a third year player for a veteran who has reached his potential. Wilson has not fully developed his skills. On a team with many offensive producers already, Wilson could be an unexpected bonus. And he may wind up being one of top gems of the 2012 draft.