Thomas Wilson hasn't scored very much, but he's big. This is enough to put the 6'4", 205 lb. right wing in many projections to be selected late in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Wilson is the one who accepted the fight challenge by Dalton Thrower (Thrower was profiled earlier here) in the CHL/NHL prospects game, which seems to annually feature some feat of strength bout like that. That fight actually broke Wilson's knuckle and took some playing time away during his draft year for Plymouth. But he capped his year off with a strong playoff.
If you look at Wilson's stats you will likely be unimpressed. But there is enough talk throwing "power forward" around that some team will select him and hope that it all pans out.
"He's an interesting player," according to a scout quoted by The Hockey News: "He has all the attributes of an NHL power forward and his hand and ability to make plays are underrated at this point." I'm not sure they're underrated, given how high Wilson is on many rankings lists.
- ISS: 17
- CSS (N.A. skaters): 15
- McKeen's: 19
- The Hockey News: 25
- The Scouting Report: 27
- Craig Button (May): 21
- Hockey Prospectus: 76
- "Consensus" aggregate of several services (May): 37
"Wilson is a true power forward with great physical projection and intangibles, although his ultimate offensive upside is a little questionable. His physical game is elite, or close to that level, with a massive frame that has muscle on it and he can be such a pain to deal with along the boards. When Wilson turns his back to a checker, he can protect the puck well, showing decent hands in tight and the ability to make a few plays, but he really controls the puck and makes plays by overpowering his opponent..."
Pronman goes on to explain why he admittedly has Wilson ranked well below many of his peers.
"Wilson is probably the biggest project in our 1st round, but he’s a player who has enough upside to justify investing a Top 30 pick on. Wilson is one of the biggest forwards in this draft and has developed into a true power forward. He’s an imposing winger who plays a gritty brand of hockey that has certainly caught the eye of NHL teams..."
The Hockey News, Draft Preview:
"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. ... Skates well, is strong below the goal line..."
Plymouth Whalers coach/GM Mike Vellucci, to IPB:
"He’s (Wilson) a James Neal type in my opinion ... He fights more than Nealer did, but he can definitely score.
“He can forecheck. And one of the best things he does is body checking. He’s a phenomenal body checker.”
Trent Klatt: Thomas Wilson is a tough player who also showed he can score. He does his best work in front of the opponents’ net."
Ryan Strome: He also has a good offensive upside, and he’s doing well in the Plymouth style of play. He’s a feared player in the league, and I think he’s going to be a dominant force next year.
If a team invests in Wilson, they know they are getting a big, physical player whose skating is on the right trajectory for a big man. What they do not know is if they are getting actual scoring ability. All of the focus on the checking aspect could certainly be a red flag for any team considering selecting him in the teens. Pundits too often fall in love with size and merely hope the scoring addresses itself. A few reports suggest Wilson impressed as a physical specimen at this past weekends Scouting Combine, though that's to be expected of a prospect with a more fully developed body.
It's a big "if," but if it pays off then it's huge. Milan Lucic scored just 9 goals for WHL Vancouver in his draft year. The next year he notched 30 -- making the Bruins all too happy to have drafted him at 50th overall in 2006 -- and he's now reached 30 and 26 in his last two NHL seasons. This season Wilson put up 9 goals (27 points) in just 49 games for Plymouth, then followed it up with 13 points (7 goals) in 13 playoff games.
With uncertain scoring production, Wilson does not profile as someone the Islanders would target where he's currently ranked. However if he's still on the board in the second round, you're forgiven for at least dreaming of a day when Perfect World Nino Niederreiter and Perfect World Wilson are banging and scoring along the Nassau Coliseum boards.
You're a couple of years off from seeing this pick bear fruit. It might only bear third-line, rough-'em up fruit. Or maybe the talk of good hands is legit -- not inflated by salivating over his size -- and you end up with something much more.
However it ends up, with the way he plays the game Wilson will still have himself some fun.*
*just a silly Phish reference