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Tom Wilson: Potential Delivered (?)

Tom Wilson’s production has finally caught up with his former coach’s lofty expectations

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals had high hopes for Tom Wilson when they drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 entry draft. Following a strong showing with the Plymouth Whalers, and a productive preseason, Wilson was able to crack the 2013-14 Capitals roster. His first NHL season was a disaster. Adam Oates, in his infinite wisdom, played Wilson less than 8 minutes a game. Despite playing in all 82 games, Wilson only tallied 10 points.

When Barry Trotz took over head coaching duties in May of 2014 it didn’t take him long to zero in on Wilson as a potential difference maker:

“When Washington first hired Trotz, before Wilson fractured his fibula falling in Ontario, the new bench boss envisioned Wilson skating beside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the top line. Listed at 6 feet 4 and 210 pounds, Wilson could offer “a bite” beside the Capitals stars, as Trotz called it, someone who at once could drop the gloves and hiss pucks toward the net. That dream still remains, the coach said, but the injury delayed Wilson’s progress and demanded more vigilant handling of his recovery” - Washington Post

Barry Trotz, like many other, has likened Tom Wilson to Milan Lucic. Keep in mind that this comparison was made years ago, when Lucic was a steady source of point production:

There’s not that many guys who have that nice combination, the Milan Lucic type guys that get you 20 goals, 20-some goals and are hard to play against, can play the game the way anybody wants. If you want to get them into a real physical battle, a grind battle, he’s oaky with that. If you want to play a skill game, he’s okay with that too. When I look at Tom, he can go into that sort of category. I wouldn’t say he’s exactly like Lucic, but he can be in that category - Barry Trotz

Wilson’s size and physical play make Lucic an obvious point of comparison. Interestingly enough both players first entered the NHL at the age of 19 and, while their circumstances have surely been different (quality of teammates, systems, Adam Oates, etc.), we’re now far enough into their respective careers that we can see how their career trajectories match up.

All stats are 5v5 and from NaturalStatTrick and run through 11/25

Data From Natural Stat Trick

2018-2019 is Wilson’s age 24 season, so small sample size warning (7 games), but if current trends hold true he will be getting more ice time than Lucic in the equivalent year (2012-2013). Let’s see how the two compare in terms of shot and point production:

Data from Natural Stat Trick

Up to this point Wilson hasn’t quite matched up to Lucic in terms of production but this year may be the turning point. Wilson is coming off of a Stanley Cup run in which he tallied 2.42 points per sixty minutes of five-on-five play (13 points in 21 GP) and that production has continued into the regular season ( 6 points in 7 GP). In his last 28 games played (this season and playoffs), Tom Wilson has tallied 19 5v5 points in 427 minutes. That equates to a P/60 of ~2.67, high enough to place him in the top 15 in that metric last season.

Now, it’s very possible that Tom Wilson’s recent uptick in production won’t last... but it might. Barry Trotz envisioned Tom Wilson becoming the player he is today, it might’ve just taken a bit longer than any of us expected. is one last thing Lucic and Wilson have in common:

NHL: Washington Capitals-Stanley Cup Championship Parade Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports