Tom Wilson Is Hockey’s Chief Villain. Or Is He?

“We’re all sitting on the bench looking at each other like, ‘Who is this kid?’ We were just so excited that he was on our side and not the other.”

Matt Mahalak, goalie

The O.H.L. is a high main junior league, however few of its gamers, if any, matched Wilson’s mixture of dimension, energy and ability. Superb on the forecheck, he intuitively understood how a play would unfold, enabling him to succeed in the puck earlier than the defenseman.

“They’d almost get like a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look and see this big body coming at them,” mentioned Brian Sommariva, who was Plymouth’s assistant basic supervisor on the time. “He was taking the exact same route they were taking. Next thing you know, there’s a large collision and a turnover.”

Wilson relished these massive collisions, although one specifically — a clear hit, Sommariva mentioned, that knocked out a smaller participant — left him visibly shaken. On the Plymouth workforce, gamers scratched for video games had been assigned to trace statistics, together with hits, earned when a participant separated an opponent from the puck or checked him out of the play altogether. Invariably, Wilson rated close to the highest.

But coaches, sensing he may rating objectives and set them up, demanded extra. The Capitals, who drafted him No. 16 overall in 2012 to add some skilled thump to their lineup, needed that, too.

So in Plymouth, Wilson devoted additional follow to stickhandling, skating and redirecting pictures, attempting to emulate the Detroit Red Wings ahead Tomas Holmstrom. His manufacturing soared, his penalty minutes dropped, and he logged time on the Whalers’ power-play unit. When a battle broke out, Plymouth’s coach, Mike Vellucci, admonished Wilson for getting concerned: He was too necessary to lose to damage or suspension.

His time in Plymouth ended with a postseason scoring binge in 2013 — 17 factors (and 41 penalty minutes) in 12 video games. After barely every week within the minors, Wilson joined the Capitals for Game 5 of their convention quarterfinal matchup in opposition to the Rangers. They knew that, at 19, Wilson may mesh on their fourth line, and he did. He clicked even higher along with his new workforce.

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