The Washington Capitals are seeing a new-look Tom Wilson to open 2021-22, and he has reportedly caught Team Canada’s attention.
Per the Toronto Star’s Chris Johnston, Canada Olympic Team head coach Jon Cooper reached out to Wilson, along with Cale Makar and Sidney Crosby, about the possibility of heading to Beijing. And according to Hockey Night in Canada’s David Amber, No. 43 is “in the mix” as one of the potential forwards for the Olympic squad.
Given Wilson’s start to the year, he could realistically earn a spot if he keeps the momentum going.
In the past, Wilson has been no stranger to controversy. The physical forward earned a bit of a reputation following a few controversial plays over his career. However, he has been avoiding that this season, even saying at the start of the year that he wanted to take on a different role.
In fact, he was far from interested in dropping the gloves with the New York Rangers in the season opener that surprisingly, didn’t feature a lot of fights given the events that unfolded just a year ago but instead proved to be a strong offensive performance for the Capitals.
“I want to score goals, I want to be a leader. I want to take on more responsibility and get our team to the playoffs and hopefully more,” Wilson declared at the start of training camp.
Right now, Wilson ranks third on the Capitals in scoring with 14 points in 16 games, and he is currently riding a three-game point streak. He trails only a red-hot Alex Ovechkin, who is already Olympic-bound, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who play in the Winter Games as well if his IIHF suspension ends up being reduced.
Wilson ranks fourth in scoring among Canadian right wings this season. His 14 points are tied for seventh among all Canadian forwards.
Not only is Wilson finding the scoresheet, but he is also helping power the top line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, which has been one of Washington’s best trios so far. He was even leading the NHL in assists earlier in the campaign.
“He’s the muscle and the engine on the car,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of Wilson. “He goes into the corners, he pulls away around the net. You’ll often find him in front of the net, battling for position, trying to make it, trying to give those guys a little bit more freedom away from the puck that people are going at the net. There’s more than one zone for those two players to move around. He brings a lot to that line with regard to his physicality and [his] assets.
“He’s continuing on… He’s somebody that I trust at the end of the game. Either way we got to win it or we’re trying to hold on to win it,” Laviolette noted. “I think he handles all of that. I think his leadership in the room continues to grow. And so all of that was there [last year] and I think it’s continued on this year.”
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Ultimately, Wilson earning a spot on the Olympic team isn’t unrealistic. He’s developing into more of a leader and playing smart, strong hockey. He is utilizing his speed, getting to the front of the net and playing a strong 200-foot game. Not only is he moving the puck well and generating chances, but he is also backchecking effectively, winning puck battles, blocking shots and killing penalties.
By expanding his skill set and better using his frame to his advantage, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound forward could be a strong asset for Team Canada as he looks to change his image.