Tom Wilson changed his game. Now he’s a two-time NHL all-star.

TORONTO — Tom Wilson grew up just five miles to the north, and he grew up again about 500 miles to the south.

The Washington Capitals winger, an NHL all-star for the second time, is a native of Toronto, where the league hosted its All-Star Game festivities this weekend. With this city considered — sometimes cynically but always based in reality — to be the center of the hockey universe, it’s only fitting that Wilson had his latest star turn in a place so important to his personal and professional lives.

Wilson has a hard-earned reputation outside of Washington. The rest of the league associates him with the headlines from early in his career — the disciplinary hearings, the series of short suspensions, the 20-game ban in 2018 that doubled as a wake-up call.

“Being in Toronto, being in a different market and then going into Washington and just seeing how he’s received and how much he loves and cares about the community and how much it all means to him, it’s very fun and surreal as an older brother,” Peter Wilson told The Washington Post. “You’re sort of like on the inside, but also you get the objective perspective of how good he is with people. …

“It’s funny when you see people realize in real time that he’s actually a great guy.”

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Wilson’s latest suspension was for seven games in March 2021. He has made a concerted effort to avoid the kinds of hits that land him in front of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety; the most recent time he was in that spotlight was for his altercation with the New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin in May 2021. That resulted in a fine but not a suspension.

Wilson will never stop playing a hard-nosed, physical game. Those are the traits that got him a spot in the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2013, and those are the traits that he maintains, even as he has risen from his early days as a fourth-line enforcer to become a top-six centerpiece, a leader in the Capitals’ dressing room and, potentially, their future captain. He knew he had to learn from his suspensions — and, for the most part, he has.

“I had to be smarter,” he told The Post. “You want to be on the ice. I couldn’t be taking suspensions, being in the stands, all that. I needed to be helping my team. As the game changed, I had to change as well.”

At Thursday’s All-Star Game player draft, Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon selected Wilson for his team — in large part because of Wilson’s reputation as a power forward.

“Willy brings physicality. I don’t know if he’s going to run anybody, but people might worry about him a little bit,” MacKinnon said with a grin. “Obviously he’s a great player as well.”

Wilson’s Team MacKinnon had a 3-1 lead heading into the final minute of Saturday’s All-Star Game semifinal, but two late goals by Connor McDavid’s team forced a shootout, and McDavid’s team sent MacKinnon’s squad to the…

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Read More: Tom Wilson changed his game. Now he’s a two-time NHL all-star. 2024-02-04 02:14:00

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