Late last week, I received a text from my ex-girlfriend now best friend: “My new obsession: Tom Wilson.”
Since she’s normally not much of a hockey fan and since I rarely watch TV I naturally assumed she meant some new actor I didn’t know about. Well, turns out she’d seen Wilson whoop Carter Ashton in a fight when the Capitals and Maple Leafs clashed last week and instantly developed a cougar crush on him.
She’s 35. Sure Wilson is in his 30s, she was shocked when I told her he’ll turn 20 in March. I’ve been calling her ‘Cougar’ ever since.
I understand her mix-up, though. After all, at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Wilson is a big man who looks well beyond his years. And he can grow a respectable beard, too, unlike most of his teenaged NHL brethren. He also plays nothing like a timid rookie and more like a hard-nosed veteran, going into the dirty areas of the ice and dishing out some big-time hits, like he did again Friday night as he ran over Brandon Dubinsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets in yet another highlight-reel bodycheck.
According to hockeyfights.com, Wilson has fought nine times, with a record of 6-2-1. His only two losses, which look far more like draws, came against Blues beast Ryan Reeves and underrated light heavyweight Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers.
Wilson is the future breed of fighters that will hopefully replace the bygone goons that have somehow still stuck around in the NHL despite being as archaic as Atari. He’s no slug of a skater and he has the skill to use his hands for much more than just playing bloody knuckles.
As a first-rounder, he has offensive upside, and credit the Capitals for seeing that in him early. When they drafted him in 2012, he was coming off a season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario League in which he’d scored just nine goals in 49 games. The next season, he scored 23 in 48 games, which he punctuated with a nine-goal, 17-point playoff performance in 12 games.
He has just one so far in the NHL, but given time and talent he could round out his game as he roughs up the opposition. While he develops as an NHLer with Washington, he’ll continue to break the will of many opponents who dare dangle in his path.
And probably a few more fans’ hearts, too.
Ronnie Shuker is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRonnieShuker. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.