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.
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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
Tom Wilson scored twice, Nicklas Backstrom recorded four helpers and the assistant coaches chipped in with a big assist in Montreal, where the Caps earned a 6-4 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night.
The win was Washington’s third in a row and seventh in eight games as they close in on another Metro Division title. Caps Coach Barry Trotz, meantime, claimed victory No. 200 in Washington; his next win will equal Bruce Boudreau for second all-time in franchise history.
Tarik’s three stars of the game:
1-Tom Wilson, Capitals
Wilson’s all-around game continues to blossom…and the Caps’ big winger continues to fill up the scoresheet. At Bell Centre, he scored back-to-back goals less than four minutes apart in the first period to put the Caps in command. Wilson also missed an empty net in the closing seconds by just a few inches. The soon-to-be 24-year-old now has 13 goals—six more than his previous career high.
2-Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
Backstrom notched four assists and, as usual, he did it quietly. And they weren’t cheapies—three of the four helpers were of the primary variety. Backstrom, who has four goals and 12 assists in his last 12 games, has now notched four or more points 20 times in his career. It was also his 11th-career four assist game.
3-Leonhardt and Ohashi, Capitals
That’s right, I’m giving the third star to assistant coaches Brett ‘Stretch’ Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi. They quickly spotted that the Habs were offside on their second goal. And, after a coach’s challenge, the refs agreed. Instead of 2-0, it remained 1-0 and the Caps took full advantage of their second chance, scoring the game’s next four goals.
Agree? Disagree? Tell us what you think in the comments.
What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.
Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.
WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-CANADIENS GAME?
The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.
WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-CANADIENS GAME ON?
The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)
6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-CANADIENS GAME?
You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.
CAPITALS-CANADIENS OPEN THREAD
Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans.
For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.