As of the morning of January 9, here are the NHL’s top five forwards by goals per hour during even strength:
Yeah. After seasons of toiling as a grinder or pretending among the top-sixers, it seems like Tom Wilson has finally arrived. And while, sure, yeah, a lot of his success is driven by 22.5-percent shooting and, sure, yeah, Wilson is not going to be a 40-goal scorer, he’s still made significant progress this season and deserves to be recognized for it.
This is a Tom Wilson 2018-19 appreciation post.
To start with the downer, somewhere around half of Wilson’s current goal total may be attributable to a massively high shooting percentage during 5-on-5 play. Here are his numbers per season:
As of Wednesday morning, with his goal against Philadelphia, Wilson’s now shooting 22.5 percent. That’s a bit higher than his career average prior to this season, 7.6 percent. Please don’t take this as discouragement though — I think we’ll find that Wilson’s new normal for shooting will be well above his old one.
And here’s why: Wilson is crashing the net much much more this season. Here are his high-danger chances per hour per season:
We’ve seen it when he’s paired with Evgeny Kuznetsov or with Jakub Vrana. When those players gain the zone with control, Wilson’s instincts kick in and he heads to the net. Wilson’s style right now is downright kanooblian. We can also see this effect in Wilson’s expected goals per hour, which has seen a huge uptick.
Now, expected goals takes into account two factors: the quality of shots (mostly based on their locations) and the volume of shots. It’s important to note that Wilson’s volume is way up as well. Here are Wilson’s shot attempts per hour.
Fourteen attempts per hour puts Wilson safely in the top quartile of forwards by shot rate. Put another way: he’s shooting like you’d expect a top-six forward to shoot.
Finally, the thing in the back of everyone’s mind: penalties. While Wilson’s major penalties are up a bit due to three fights and his match penalty for hitting Brett Seney, Wilson’s mostly been a good boy, halving his rate of minor penalties per hour.
Now, I’m not saying that Wilson is transformed. All I’m saying is that, if Wilson were transformed, it sure would look a lot like this.
Headline photo: Patrick McDermott
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