Each draft seems to have its quintessential big body presence, the power forward who has no qualms about roughing everyone up in his path. In the 2012 edition of the draft, that presence is Thomas Wilson, a right winger with the Plymouth Whalers.
Wilson hasn’t found his scoring touch at the major junior level yet, but he is ready and willing to throw his weight around at the drop of a hat. He will throw the big hit or drop the gloves. He is a strong skater and will find a way to contribute in the pro ranks in some capacity, whether it is a productive power forward role or that of an enforcer.
Position: Right Wing
Born: March 29, 1994
What people in the know know
The 5 Questions
1. What can you say about the injury you suffered last season that cost you the last four months of the season and how your dealt with it?
“I tore a subsheath in the big tendon that runs along your wrist so I needed some pretty major surgery on that. So that was unfortunate. I worked out hard in the summer to get ready for this year and hopefully I can stay injury-free this year.
” … It sucks only being able to watch the games and not being able to help your team on the ice. It gives you some free time to concentrate on school. I tried to treat the layoff I had like it was my summer. Even though my wrist was hurt I could work on my lower body. I could work on my academics, but I was there for the team when they needed me.”
2. Apart from the obvious — build strength, improve foot speed — what area of your game do you need to improve the most by the time you are ready to turn pro?
“It’s not only just foot speed or hand speed, but doing things at full speed is so important when you get to the next level. Everyone is so fast. You can have speed or fast hands, but learning how to put that all together when you are flying down the wing is important. I’m working on my puck protection and accelerating out of the zone and creating chances around the net and using my size as I get more experience. That’s probably the biggest thing, putting it all together at full speed.”
3. Whom in the NHL do you watch and think, “I need to start playing like he does” or “I see things in his game I can work into mine?”
“[Anaheim Ducks centre] Ryan Getzlaf is one guy I’ve always looked up to, he’s a big power forward that’s got great skill. He seems able to protect the puck well in the offensive zone and create chances for his linemates. Not to mention going to the Olympics, he wasn’t total healthy, but he battled through to help Canada win the gold medal. He’s definitely an idol that I try to model myself after.”
4. Outside of family, who has had the most impact on you in hockey?
“My grandpa [Jake Avery] is a huge fan. He used to always come to games and give me advice. He’s one person. There has been a ton of coaches who have helped over the years and a lot of people giving me advice. [Former NHLer] Steve Thomas is one person who has helped me immensely. He’s a family friend who’s obviously been through the ranks of the NHL and has had a kid [New York Rangers prospect Christian Thomas] come up through the OHL. He’s been really influential in my hockey career.”
5. Favourite TV show or movie?
“Favourite movie is probably Miracle or Rocky. I love the sports movies and the underdog stories. Those are definitely two classics.”
Wilson is a very imposing winger who has thrived with the Plymouth Whalers this season as a forward who brings plenty of size, grit, and physicality to the team’s lineup. Wilson is versatile and has enough ability to play with skilled players while playing a physical role. His skating has steadily improved and his willingness to take the body with his size creates a lot of space for teammates. He’s good in the corners on the cycle and does a good job wearing down opposing teams as well. It is concerning that he only has 6 goals while playing with players like Stefan Noesen, Rickard Rakell, and JT Miller, but Wilson is a player who is likely going to take some time to grow into his frame and find out just how high his ceiling is.
Subtlety is not the first thing that comes to mind when discussing Wilson’s game. The Plymouth Whalers power forward uses his big frame to punish opponents and create scoring chances. And if someone doesn’t like it, he’s happy to drop the gloves.
That was the situation at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game when Wilson traded punches with Saskatoon’s Dalton Thrower after the Whalers big man drove Thrower’s Blades teammate, Lukas Sutter, into the boards.
Wilson busted a knuckle on Thrower’s head, but returned after missing a month and was productive.
Though Wilson isn’t a scorer in Plymouth yet, scouts know his track record from midget and the Whalers are always so deep youngsters don’t always post numbers right away. “He’s an interesting player,” said one scout. “All the attributes of an NHL power forward. He skates well is strong below the goal line and his hands an ability to make plays are underrated.”
From the horse’s mouth
Though the “New NHL” as we know it allegedly values speed and finesse, we’ve now seen two teams in a row dominate the postseason en route to Stanley Cups with a combination of size and playmaking ability. The rap on Wilson is that he has both and, as a strong skater, he won’t be left sucking wind in fast pace games.
It doesn’t matter how much the rules have changed, there are always going to be a long list of suitors for a 6-foot-4, 200 pound, 18-year-old with offensive upside. Look for Wilson to be off the board in the first round.