Tom Wilson Proving to Be Perfect Fit as Washington Capitals' New Enforcer

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Tom Wilson Proving to Be Perfect Fit as Washington Capitals' New Enforcer
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals decided on Oct. 18 to keep Tom Wilson with the big club and not send him back to the OHL, according to The Washington Post

But Wilson has yet to record a point through 12 games and has compiled a minus-three rating, according to NHL.com

So why would the Capitals choose to make such a move? 

Because Wilson is proving to be a perfect fit as the Capitals' new enforcer, that's why. 

You see, the Capitals knew they would need someone to fill the enforcer role when Matt Hendricks signed with the Nashville Predators in the offseason. Hendricks led the Caps in fighting majors in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13

As the 2013-14 season was set to begin, Capitals fans assumed that Hendricks' role would be filled by one of the following players, based on their previous NHL experience in terms of number of seasons played (EXP) along with their career fighting majors (FMs): 

Capitals' Most Likely Candidates for Enforcer Prior to 2013-14
PLAYER POSITION HEIGHT WEIGHT AGE EXP FMs
John Erskine D 6' 4" 219 33 12 63
Aaron Volpatti LW 6' 1" 185 28 3 12
Steve Oleksy D 6' 0" 195 27 1 3

HockeyFights.com

In a surprise development, this truculent trio has combined for only one fight this season. That solitary skirmish came on Oct. 19 when Steve Oleksy fought Brandon Dubinsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets

Instead, rookie Tom Wilson has stepped up to become the Capitals' premier tough guy. 

That's right, Tom Wilson. The 6'4", 210-pound 19-year-old from Toronto who, prior to the start of this season, had zero NHL regular-season games and zero NHL fighting majors to his name. In fact, Wilson is so clearly defined by his youth and inexperience that he is fully deserving of the nickname Youngblood

Nevertheless, Wilson has three fighting majors this season. That leads the Washington Capitals and is tied for fourth among the NHL leaders in the category. 

Plus, Wilson is not just fighting a lot. He is fighting with a lot of skill.

Don't believe me? See for yourself as you check out the following videos of Wilson's three fights from this season, followed by my own analysis of each fight. Also included is the voter-based data on each fight, as tabulated by HockeyFights.com: 

 

1. Oct. 3, 2013: Lance Bouma vs. Tom Wilson

Wilson's first NHL regular-season fight is his best for a few different reasons.

First of all, Wilson landed the majority of the blows against the 6'0", 180-pound Bouma and also unveiled an impressive upper cut. Plus, Wilson landed some jabs to Bouma's face while grabbing his jersey, helping to keep his opponent distracted and off balance.

This is an underrated and seldom-used technique I like to call "grab-and-jab." Wilson employed another rare technique when he reached down and grabbed Bouma's legs to go for the takedown so he could finish the fight on his terms, even though he took a shot to the face in the process.

Finally, this fight showed Wilson fulfilling perhaps the most important role of any team's No. 1 enforcer: coming to the rescue of his teammates. Bouma had just hit Jack Hillen awkwardly, breaking Hillen's leg. Hillen is scheduled to miss four to six months as a result of the collision, according to USA Today.  

WINNER: Wilson (80.0%). RATING: 5.0.

 

2. Oct. 16, 2013: Justin Falk vs. Tom Wilson

This fight occurred two days before the Caps made their final decision on Wilson's future, and it may have gone a long way in helping the Caps arrive at that decision. Aside from that, this fight came about simply because Wilson didn't like being hit by Falk, which is not to say the hit was dirty.

This scrap was a more even matchup for Wilson than his first fight, as Falk goes 6'5" and 205 pounds. Even so, Wilson dominated the action. He once again used grab-and-jab while adding some big overhand rights, as Falk connected with some of his own.

Wilson eventually freed up his left hand so that he could pull Falk in close and bring him to his knees with that devastating upper cut. Fighters around the league should take notes on what is quickly becoming Wilson's signature punch. 

WINNER: Wilson (67.0%). RATING: 5.1.

 

3. Oct. 22, 2013: Tom Wilson vs. Patrice Cormier

At first glance, this fight appears to be a bit of a dud. It starts away from the play, and the cameras barely have time to find the action before Cormier goes down, ending the fight.

Upon further review, however, many fight fans will come to the conclusion that Wilson deserved the win. He landed the only punch of the fight: another big overhand right. The resulting blow to Cormier's helmet caused Cormier to fall to the ice, as he appeared to be stunned by the blow. Looks like a knockout to me.

What is your favorite Tom Wilson fight so far?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Fans at HockeyFights.com who voted on this fight tended to agree with me, as 47.9 percent voted for Wilson as the winner, leaving none to do so for Cormier.

Hopefully this is not the last fight between these two precocious pugilists, who unfortunately will not cross paths too often as a result of divisional realignment. The 23-year-old Cormier, who checks in at 6'1" and 199 pounds, already has an impressive fight card, including his time in the AHL and the QMJHL before that. 

WINNER: Draw (52.1%). RATING: 2.7.

So there you have it. Those are Wilson's three NHL regular-season fights so far. 

Don't expect Wilson to simmer down any time soon. The more he fights, the more he will have to fight. Other young enforcers from around the league will want to test themselves against Wilson, while veteran enforcers will want to teach him a thing or two. Such is the life of an enforcer trying to prove himself in the NHL. 

With that in mind, here are three potential dance partners for Wilson, one from each of the Capitals' next three opponents. Next to the date of each game is a listing of each player's height and weight, along with the total amount of NHL experience in terms of number of seasons played (EXP) along with the number of fighting majors (FMs), with this season's total listed first followed by the career total: 

Potential Opponents for Tom Wilson During the Week of Nov. 1
DATE TEAM PLAYER HT WT AGE EXP FMs
Nov. 1 Flyers Zac Rinaldo 5' 11" 169 23 3 2 / 22
Nov. 2 Panthers Erik Gudbranson 6' 3" 195 21 3 3 / 9
Nov. 5 Islanders Eric Boulton 6' 0" 201 37 13 2 / 134

HockeyFights.com

No matter who he fights as the season wears on, Wilson will continue to build on his reputation among Capitals' players and fans alike. Soon everyone will know who he is:

Tough guy. 

Protector. 

Enforcer. 

To help secure his status, Wilson will be expected to engage in a specific confrontation during the early part of the 2013-14 season. This prospective fight will not be seen as an act of vengeance but rather as an act of closure for one of the more memorable chapters in franchise fighting history

On Dec. 11, the Capitals will play the Nashville Predators at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Matt Hendricks should be in the lineup.

Hendy always did love dropping the gloves at The Phone Booth. Surely he'd be willing to fight Youngblood in front of 18,000 raucous Red Rockers, pitting the Capitals' old enforcer versus the Capitals' new enforcer. 

Call it the changing of the guard. 

 

Note: All statistics updated through Oct. 28 courtesy of HockeyFights.com unless noted otherwise. 

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