Already standing 6’4″ and weighing 203 pounds, Washington Capitals first-round draft pick Thomas Wilson was asked if he felt like he had any more growing to do.
“I still think I’ve got a lot of filling out to do,” Wilson said shortly after being selected by the Caps with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft Friday. “I think I might be done growing, but definitely some big muscle to put on and fill out.”
The towering and raw 18-year-old right winger (for what it is worth, he said that 215 pounds or “maybe a little bit heavier” would be an ideal playing weight) might be a few years from competing for a roster spot in Washington, but if he makes it to that point, Wilson would give the Caps something they have been missing in recent years: a shift-disturber who is the type of player that teams love to have, but hate to play against.
Wilson, who missed time last season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League with a broken knuckle he suffered in a fight, earned the distinction of being the “Best Body Checker” in the 2012 OHL Western Conference Coaches Poll and came in second in the “Hardest Worker” category. He throws his weight around in the dirty areas, especially in the corners and in the crease. Meanwhile, his 141 penalty minutes were ninth-most in the OHL.
Yet, Wilson’s game is not solely confined to agitating. Coincidentally, his style of play is similar to that of his favorite NHL player: Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic. Lucic compliments his rough-and-tumble attitude with an underrated, yet unpolished offensive skillset and Wilson does much of the same; Wilson scored nine goals and earned 27 points in 49 regular season games to go with seven goals and 13 points in 13 playoff games last season.
“I think most noticeably for me, it’s my big, physical game,” Wilson said when asked what his biggest strengths are. “I’m a big power forward and create space for my linemates. I like the physical play and don’t shy away from it, but I think I’ve got some offensive potential to come in the next few years.”
Wilson said Friday that he met with the Caps brass at the scouting combine earlier this month and again this week in Pittsburgh. General Manager George McPhee also received the blessing of former head coach Dale Hunter, who coached against Wilson’s Whalers as coach of the London Knights.
“Dale liked him a lot,” McPhee said. “Dale was over this morning, we talked a lot about him. What we liked about him is he scored before he got to junior. He’s played a couple years of junior now, he’s been on Team Canada’s clubs overseas. In the playoffs this year, a couple guys got hurt, they moved him up the lineup and he responded with seven goals. There’s a chance he can be a pretty effective player.”
“We get a guy that can play and he’s tough, too,” McPhee continued, adding that Wilson is a project that will need a lot of work to get him where they need him. “It’s a harder and harder thing to find in our league now, but this guy might be able to do it.”
Wilson will likely return to Plymouth next season as he continues to develop into a NHL-ready two-way power forward, but the possibility of having his own Caps jersey instead of his Alex Ovechkin jersey is a thought that excites him.
“I had his jersey when I was younger,” Wilson said with a laugh. “He’s really fun to watch. It’s gonna be cool to meet him when I do and if I do. It’s pretty exciting to be playing with guys like that.”
“I’m thrilled,” he continued. “Never been to Washington. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard it’s a great city. They got a great pick in [11th overall pick Filip] Forsberg, so I’m really looking forward to going to [development] camp and getting to know the organization.”
Thanks to SB Nation D.C.’s Ted Starkey for providing the audio.