Tom Wilson is not a well-liked player among the fan bases of the other 30 NHL franchises, but he is continuing to show why each of those other 30 franchises would absolutely want him on their team.
Wilson recorded two goals Sunday in the Capitals' 5-4 win over the New York Rangers. He now has four points in his last two games and five points in his last four since returning from suspension.
"I think the first game back he was getting his feet under him a little bit," Washington head coach Peter Laviolette said. "After that he’s been a difference-maker."
"It's nice when they go in, for sure," Wilson said -- though he credited his linemates with much of his current success.
Wilson received a seven-game suspension for his hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo on March 5. That suspension, the fifth of Wilson's career, brought with it the same familiar criticisms he has faced in the past from people who see his hits, but ignore the impact he has on the ice and for his team.
For the season, Wilson now has nine goals and 22 points. In addition to his two goals on Sunday, he also drew an interference penalty in the third period. It was the 10th penalty he has drawn this season, which leads the team.
“Willy's just an all-around great player for us," Brenden Dillon said. "First and foremost, he creates a lot of room for his teammates when he’s playing physical, he’s getting into the forecheck. And offensively, the skill he has and how much offense he creates. He can make plays. He’s tough to handle when you get the cycle game going."
Wilson still lays big hits on opponents, but continues to make an impact on games in multiple ways.
Critics will always dismiss Wilson as a goon, but he is much more than that. He is a forward with top-six skill, who can skate and plays the game with a physical edge. He has become a vital piece of Washington's long-term success and that has been on display again since his return from suspension.
"He’s been really dominant out there," Laviolette said. "He’s been physical, he’s been fast, he’s been producing, he’s been a good defensive player for us.”