Opinions vary widely on Tom Wilson. Many fans around the league think he’s a dirty player while Caps fans forever debate whether he’s a bust or not. To all of this I have the following to say: who cares?
Today, our purpose here is not to make sweeping judgements for or against the Caps fourth line forward. We are also not going to compare Wilson to other first round picks and assess the judgement of selecting him in the first round.
Today, we are here to recognize Tom Wilson for being one of the Caps most trusted and effective penalty killers.
Over the last three seasons, seven different forwards have been given at least 50 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill for the Caps. Among those seven forwards, five are still with the team. Here’s how the group of seven ranks in terms of on-ice unblocked shot attempts against/60 over that span:
As you can see, Wilson more than holds his own here, as the only current teammate ahead of him is Justin Williams. Wilson is light years better than Nick Backstrom and TJ Oshie here and still noticeably better than Jay Beagle.
Another good way to measure penalty killers, if the sample is large enough, is goals against. Here’s a look at goals against/60 among the same group of penalty killers of the last three seasons:
Well, look at that. Tom Wilson has been the Caps most effective penalty killing forward over the last three seasons when it comes to preventing goals against.
The coaching staff seems to be taking notice of Wilson’s effective penalty killing. Through five games, he’s been the most used forward on the penalty kill, according to Hockey Analysis.
And no, the forwards are not to blame for the Caps early season PK woes.
Tom Wilson hasn’t blossomed into the top-six forward many were hoping he’d become when he was drafted in the first round. But Wilson can fall short of some expectations and still have value as a player for the Caps. One of the ways he’s doing this is on the penalty kill, where he’s become arguably Barry Trotz’s most trusted and effective forward.
Headline photo: Patrick Smith
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