Tom Wilson has made a name for himself over the past few seasons as someone who is never afraid to drop the gloves for the Caps. The problem is, that's not all the team wants him to be known for.
When teams draft a player in the first round, 16th overall, it's not with the goal that the player can develop into a fourth-line enforcer. Yet, that has been his role in the majority of his first two NHL seasons.
Now, Wilson is going to get a chance to show the team what he can do.
"I think we project him now third line right wing with possibilities of moving up certain games," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "I think he can handle it. . . . [W]e're going to work with him and be patient with him and give him some chance to show what he can do."
With the addition of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, there was not much room for Wilson in the top six, but a move to the third line shows the team's trust in a player who some have already written off as nothing more than a thug on the ice.
"You forget how young he is," said head coach Barry Trotz. "He's still a pretty young player. I need to put him in situations where he can continue to grow. That's what I tried to do last year."
This is a big season for Wilson not just because it is the final year of his entry-level deal, but because he is coming off a healthy offseason. Wilson suffered a fractured fibula in the summer of 2014 which greatly hampered his conditioning throughout the entire 2014-15 season.
"I think that really set him back last year, not being able to train with the ankle and then coming into camp not being 100 percent," said MacLellan. "It's hard to catch up."
"You could see it in his game, he was chasing it all year I think," Trotz said. "Where he is, he just moves way better. You can tell right now.
"Last year he looked like the one foot was a little stiff and he didn't get much power out of it. I watch him now, he's got a full knee bend, he's powering through things, he's skating."
Now Wilson is a little older, a little wiser and a lot healthier. That means the pressure is on for him to show he can still be the player the Caps thought he could be when they drafted him in the first round in 2012.
"I've talked to him and said he's got to move up the ladder and he's got to play at least in the third line and his minutes should increase with penalty killing," Trotz said. "I think he's ready for that step."