As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 12: Tom Wilson, Right Wing
2014-15 NHL Salary: $925,000 [$894,167 cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points, plus-1, 151 penalty minutes, 7:56 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 80 games, 12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points, plus-6, 127 penalty minutes, 12:14 average ice time
Analysis: Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan wants Wilson to get more ice time than Adam Oates gave him last season. Head coach Barry Trotz has repeatedly stated he is interested in coaching the hard-nosed power forward. Now, the challenge is finding a way to get the most out of the Capitals’ first-round pick [16th overall in 2012] on a roster overloaded on the right side. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound right wing was a tower of terror last season, finishing fifth in the NHL with 14 fighting majors and third on the Capitals with 197 hits. He didn’t exactly get off on the right foot with his new bosses when he fractured his left fibula in a fall near his home in Toronto in late June. Wilson is expected to fully recover but may not be available for game action at the start of the Caps’ preseason on Sept. 21. Although Wilson is expected to be cleared before the start of the regular season on Oct. 9 he will miss close to two months of valuable training time while his fracture heals. Wilson planned on improving his skating and explosiveness during the summer. While Trotz would like to see Wilson make a bigger impact this season, finding the ice time to do so promises to be difficult, especially if Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward begin the season on the right side. In all likelihood Wilson will begin the 2014-15 season where he finished his rookie season – on the Caps’ fourth line. But unlike last season, when Oates could not deliver on his promise to get Wilson more ice time, look for Trotz to integrate Wilson into the lineup by using him as a net presence on the power play and spotting him on the second line. The hope is for Wilson to be getting top-nine forward minutes by the end of the season. Because Wilson took on just about everyone who challenged him last season, look for him to back off on his penalty minutes, especially if the Caps sign a player like Paul Bissonnette to handle the NHL’s heavyweights. If Wilson can average more than 12 minutes a night – most of it at even strength – he’s capable of putting up between 25 and 35 points. More importantly, his big hits and snarly team-first presence gives the Caps the bite they want in their game under a coach who demands nothing less.