Photo: Chris Gordon
Myan Tran is a long-time RMNB reader. She writes from Northern Virginia to settle an argument we’ve been waging among ourselves for months.
A lot has been said about whether Tom Wilson has reached or will ever reach the potential expected of a first-round draft pick. When we start talking about whether Tom Wilson is a “bust” in comparison to his peers, the conversation always turns into “well, what is a bust and who are his peers?” We’ll talk about what a “bust” is later.
First, let’s talk about who Tom’s peers are.
For this purpose of this post, Wilson’s peers are NHL forwards who fit the following criteria: age 19-26, in their 1st to 4th season, minimum of 60* NHL games played. 166 players fit the criteria including Stamkos, Kuznetsov, Seguin at the top, and Delauriers and Zac Rinaldo at the bottom. Based on Points/60, we are going to look at players within two standard deviations of the average to eliminate those very good and very bad players. This leaves a pool of 110 players who we will consider Wilson’s peers. For some context, the top of the pool are Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Brenden Gallagher, the bottom is Dmitri Jaskin and Emerson Etem.
*Note: 60 games was chosen because among players who have played at least 100 games, Wilson did not fall within the average for many categories. In addition, there are very few 22 years who have played 100 games or more and I wanted to create a substantial sample.
Simply put, standard deviation is a measure used to determine what is considered an average or “normal” range. We are going to look at whether Wilson falls above, below, or within that range for a couple of key stats. Here’s a cute explanation of standard deviation that measures puppies.
We are looking at the dogs (players) in the shaded area. The green-highlighted player represents the overall average.
Relative Shot Attempts-For at Even Strength
|Overall Rank (110)||Player||RelCF%||Average?||Percentile w/in Avg|
|15||A. Burakovsky||+2.4||Top of Avg||100.0|
|97||N. Yakupov||-2.80||Bottom of Avg||0.0|
Okay, a crash course on how to read this chart: among Wilson’s 110 peers, the average player swings possession between plus-2.4 percent to minus-2.8 percent when they are on the ice. In this case, the players ranked 15 through 97 represent the average. Charlie Coyle represents the overall average at minus-0.20 percent and is better than 46.3 percent of other players who fall within this average range.
When Wilson is on the ice, the Caps attempt 2.6 percent fewer shots than when he is off the ice. He’s average but he is only better than 1.2 percent of guys who we can consider “okay” at tilting the ice. In this case, Wilson is better than 1 player: Nail Yakupov. Please note the Swedish meatball at the very top of the average range and is better than 100.0 percent of the players who are also considered average. He’s sitting pretty at 15th overall in that pool of 110 players.
Shot-Attempts For per 60 minutes – All Situations
|Overall Rank (110)||Player||CF/60||Average?||Percentile w/in Avg|
|17||M. Zibanejad||63.1||Top of Avg||100.0|
|90||T. Wilson||48.5||Bottom of Avg||0.0|
Within the overall pool, Wilson ranks 90th in shot-attempts-for per 60 minutes of ice time which puts him within the average but he is at the very bottom of that average range. That said, Willy’s 48.5 attempts per 60 is still better than some notable young guns with big reputations and a lot of PP time: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is number 100 and at 108 is Sasha Barkov.
Points per 60 minutes – All Situations
|Overall Rank (110)||Player||Stat||Average?||Percentile w/in Avg|
|25||J. Drouin||2.01||Top of Avg||100.0|
|84||T. Rieder||1.37||Bottom of Avg||0.0|
Brace yourselves, this isn’t pretty. In a pool with 109 other players considered his peers, Wilson ranks 102nd in points/60, well below the average. Of the 101 players who rank above him, 68 of them were either drafted with a pick later than his (1st round, 16th pick) or went undrafted.
Hi, Andre Burakovsky!
Individual Shooting Percentage – All Situations
|Overall Rank||Player||SH%||Average?||Percentile w/in Avg|
|16||B. Nelson||12.5%||Top of Avg||100.0|
|93||M. Nieto||8.0%||Bottom of Avg||0.0|
This is where Wilson can improve. Among the entire pool of 110 players, 107 of them are better at shooting the puck than Wilson. His 6.1 percent shooting is well below the average range and unfortunately, we don’t have data from his minor days so it’s difficult to gauge if he’s just been unlucky in the NHL, a mediocre shooter, or somewhere in between (probably).
Shots on Goal per 60 – All Situations
|Overall Rank||Player||SOG/60||Average?||Percentile w/in Avg|
|18||N. Yakupov||8.48||Top of Avg||98.7|
|96||V. Namestnikov||5.56||Bottom of Avg||0.0|
SOG/60 is actually one of the only statistics in which Wilson is comfortably within the average and that data set includes a lot of guys who get PP time. Wilson is generating a serviceable amount of shot attempts and he’s getting enough of them on goal. What’s holding him back is his dismal 6.1 percent shooting.
Let’s recognize someone who is decidedly not a bust: Andre Burakovsky is a very special player. Seriously, if you see him around Clarendon, buy him a cinnamon roller or something. I didn’t intend to include him in the visuals but any way that I sliced the data, he was consistently towards the top.
To answer that question, you need to define what a ‘bust” is. The great part is that there’s no right or wrong answer– a bust is whatever you think it is. If you think that a first round pick should put up more points and therefore Tom is a bust, you share that opinion that with a lot of people.
Here’s the thing, though: Caps fans are spoiled with incredible first round picks. These are the guys who inform what we think a first round pick should be: Ovi, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Oshie, Williams, Johansson, Carlson, Alzner, Niskanen, Orpik, and not so long ago, Mike Green, Sasha Semin, and Eric Fehr. The reality is that only about 70 percent of skaters drafted in the first round ever play at least 100 NHL games. Not only did those guys play far more than 100 games, they are above-average to elite players. Wilson is among the 70 percent who’s played 100 games and it’s no coincidence that he’s still here.
Here’s a pre-draft scouting report of Wilson by Lighthouse Hockey of all places:
If a team invests in Wilson, they know they are getting a big, physical player… What they do not know is if they are getting actual scoring ability.
At this point in his career, that is still the question and it’s obvious that Tom is not the offensive dynamo that we thought he would be but let’s remember that 1) he turned 22 last week and 2) forwards can be difference makers without putting up offensive numbers. As evidenced by his series-swinging hit on Visnovsky in Game 4 last year, Willy can be an impactful player with the ability to greatly influence a game or even an entire series.
Maybe we (mainly I) need to reassess our expectations for a first round draft pick and what qualifies as a meaningful contribution. At 22, Wilson’s contribution to the Capitals is meaningful even if it doesn’t correlate with our first-round expectations, which are highly skewed. There are role players on every team and as long as Willy occupies one of those roles and is a positive difference maker for this team, that’s enough for me.
P.S. Ironically, Lighthouse also had this to say:
You’re forgiven for at least dreaming of a day when Perfect World Nino Niederreiter and Perfect World Wilson are banging and scoring along the Nassau Coliseum boards.
That’s not quite how it played out.
And if someone doesn't take out Tom Wilson I'll do it my damn self #isles
— Islanders Pride (@IslandersPride) February 19, 2016
Might be more important for the #isles if someone knocks tom wilson into next month than win the game. Enough of this guy. Make a statement
— Dan Sposato (@DSpogolf) February 19, 2016
I wonder what changed.
Tom Wilson broke the Isles y'all. He literally broke an entire pro hockey franchise.
— Bert Vegas (@RFCapsMoustache) February 19, 2016
You can follow Myan on Twitter. Stats from hockey-reference.com
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.