Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.
In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.
Today’s player: No. 13 Tom Wilson
In the early years of his career, Tom Wilson appeared to be a largely one-dimensional player. He was physical and certainly not afraid to drop the gloves, but he contributed little else.
But there’s a reason the Capitals drafted Wilson 16th overall in the 2012 draft and it wasn’t just to be a fourth-line goon.
Part of his slow development had to do with how he was utilized. His 2013-14 season was completely mismanaged by head coach Adam Oates, who elected not to return him to juniors where he would have logged plenty of minutes. Instead, he kept Wilson on the NHL roster so he could average a paltry 7:56 in ice time. That season certainly set his development back, but the 2017 postseason offered a glimpse of the type of impact Wilson can have.
Wilson scored the overtime winner in Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and may well have saved that series for the Caps with a masterful performance in Game 4. Down 2-1 in the series against the plucky Leafs, Barry Trotz made one small change to the lineup and bumped Wilson up to the third line. Wilson not only scored two goals that game, he also made a goal-saving dive to sweep the puck off the goal line behind Braden Holtby. The goal would have tied the game at 2. Instead, the resulting rush led to a Wilson goal allowing Washington to take a 3-1 lead. The Caps would go on to win that game and the series.
At 23 years old, Wilson is still very capable of further developing his offensive game and that is what the Caps will need from him. With holes in the lineup, Wilson will almost certainly move into the third line. Should Jakub Vrana struggle again, Wilson may well move up to the second. He should never lose the physical aspect of his game, but he needs to produce to stay in the top nine and the seven goals, 12 assists he had last season just won’t cut it. When he produces the way he is capable of, the Toronto series is evidence of just how important a player he can be.
Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.
— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker
— No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
— No. 17 Christian Djoos
— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly