At the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Tom Wilson had the perfect opportunity to introduce himself to those outside of the Ontario Hockey League.
And at the Top Prospects Game, there was nobody more physically imposing than six-foot-four, 206-pound Wilson of the Plymouth Whalers. The 17-year-old was an absolute behemoth, lowering the boom more than a few times in Kelowna, leaving fans and scouts alike in awe.
But while Wilson has a knack for bringing the pain, by no means is he just a one dimensional player. So far this season, Wilson has amassed seven goals and 22 points to compliment 122 penalty minutes in 41 games for his Whalers club and is a remarkable plus-18.
In his final year of Midget with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Wilson tallied 44 goals and 61 assists for 105 points and 140 penalty minutes in 73 games. A big reason why Plymouth drafted the physical winger with their 2nd round pick (27th overall) in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.
Last season, he was part of the Team Ontario squad that won gold at the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg and the gold medal winning Canadian club at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial.
He skates very well for his size, wins the little battles along the boards, and in front of the net where he has a knack for scoring, and plays a solid north and south game. He is your prototypical power forward that can change the course of a game with a goal, a big hit, or a fight and holds the same potential to be an impact player in junior and at the pro level.
I had the chance to catch up with the hulking, well-spoken Wilson, for a quick Q and A.
I’ve had the opportunity to see you play a few times now, and have been really impressed with your physical dominance and work along the boards. What do you see being you best attributes as a player?
Tom: For sure my physical play, and ability to create time and space for my linemates.
I read that your coach-GM Mike Vellucci compared you to the Penguins James Neal, but is there an NHLer you mold your game after?
Tom: Milan Lucic would be one guy I try to pattern my game after, a big skilled guy that shows up and works hard every night. I think the opposition always knows when he is on the ice.
Along with being a tremendous talent on the ice, I’ve heard you are just as gifted in the classroom, what made you opt to play in the OHL rather than take the NCAA route?
Tom: I think that my style of play is more catered towards the OHL. It is the quickest route to professional hockey, and I wanted to play at the highest level I could right away, not wait around for two years in tier 2 or the USHL.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the OHL?
Tom: My first game was in Windsor when they were having the Memorial Cup presentations, this was great for me to see the ultimate goal right in front of me at the beginning of my career.
You have scored a few goals in your time with Plymouth, and you racked up a bunch in your minor hockey days as well, do you have one that stands out as your biggest?
Tom: U-18 goal against Russia in the Semi-finals.
Currently the Whalers are sitting atop the West Division in the OHL standings, how do you like the make up of this years club, and how do you like your chances of making a run deep into the playoffs?
Tom: I really like our team this year, we have great depth, solid defence, and two stellar goalies. I believe we have the team to do it.
I was able to take in the CHL Prospect Game in Kelowna this past week, and you threw two big hits, one early in the game and another in the second that resulted in a fight with Dalton Thrower. For me (and most fans in attendance), those were three of the bright spots in an otherwise lackluster game. With that being said, and the NHL really looking to eliminate the fighting role, what is your stance on the tough guys in hockey?
Tom: I think that part of the game will always exist, those big hits create momentum for teams and using the prospects game as an example, Dalton Thrower was just standing up for his teammate. The tough guy role will be there, but now that the game has developed these type of players have to play hockey as well, not just goon it up.
You have had your fair share of scraps over the past couple years, which was your favourite one, and who was your toughest opponent?
Tom: My first career OHL fight against Aaron Taylor was definitely memorable, it was my first taste, I had a great pic for facebook and I will never forget it. Toughest opponent would be Mcguire on Erie, guy can throw.
Do you have a favourite hit you’ve dished out?
Tom: Prospects game on Sutter, great stage and really exciting game.
I know it is an honor to be drafted into the NHL, but if you could select the team that picks you, who would you choose?
Tom: Obviously I would love any team, but I think Montreal would be cool.
Best advice ever recieved?
Tom: New quote put up on the wall in the room recently, “Some people dream of success, others wake up and work for it!” Or, just go out and have fun.