The NHL is a tough league. Every team needs an enforcer. Usually, it’s a beefy veteran fourth-liner who’s fairly ticked-off before he even takes the ice — a player who is looking for any reason to drop the gloves. The Washington Capitals have rotated a few enforcers over the years, but the current guy for the job is a teenager — 19-year-old Tom Wilson.
Playing in the junior leagues only a few short months ago, Wilson has already earned a reputation as a player who gets miffed if an official has the audacity to step in and end a fight he’s started. He currently tops the penalty minutes charts for the Caps with 25 minutes (including several fighting majors), twice as many minutes as the next player down the list.
The Caps knew they’d need a new enforcer after crowd favorite Matt Hendricks moved onto the Nashville Predators during the offseason. Hendricks led Washington in fighting majors for his last three seasons with the franchise. Had Wilson not emerged as the team’s go-to fight starter, veteran John Erskine was definitely another candidate, with 63 fighting majors under his belt to date.
However, Erskine is a bit injury-prone these days, so why not regularly inflict the opposing team with the amusingly insulting fact that one of their big guys was just pulverized by a teen?
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Wilson certainly fits the bill as enforcer. However, once the gloves are dropped, height and weight do not count for everything. Skillfulness and tactics usually prevail, and Wilson has shown that he owns both traits so far this season.
Wilson started, as he meant to continue on Oct. 3 at the Capitals’ home opener against the Calgary Flames. After he took effrontery at Flame Lance Bouma’s leveling of Caps’ D-Man Jack Hillen, Wilson danced with Bouma and eventually put him down.
Toronto native Wilson has featured in all 12 of the Caps’ games during the campaign so far. He has zero points, but he certainly makes up for that in sparking the team with his toe-to-toe routines. And we all know the Caps can currently use any spark they can get their hands on.