SAN JOSE- Sure enough every young hockey player wants to carve out their own unique style of play but if there was one player on the San Jose Sharks for today’s youth to emulate their game after it might have to be right wing Tommy Wingels.
Wingels may not have flare, he may not have style, but everything he lacks he makes up for with his dedicated “three-way” play: offensive zone, defensive zone and physical presence. (Kudos if you got The Offspring lyrical reference/paraphrase).
Listed at only 6’0″, 195, Wingels is San Jose’s top “pest” or “agitator” and fulfills that role without taking stupid penalties. His underrated skating speed and acceleration allows him to consistently finish good clean checks and draw retaliatory penalties while rarely finding himself in the sin bin.
Playing the end of last season and the beginning of this season on the right side of Joe Pavelski, Wingels only keeps getting better and better. While he won’t score 30 goals any time soon, his nine points in 13 games on the season has him on pace for 57 over 82 games.
The 25-year-old has been in the NHL for what feels like a good while now but this is truly his first full 82 game campaign. He made his debut in 2010-11 but appeared in just in five total games. In 2011-12 he chipped in nine points in 33 games but it wasn’t until last year’s lockout shortened season when he fully established himself as an everyday NHLer. In 42 games last season Wingels registered just 13 points.
So while he probably won’t continue to produce offense at his current rate, a 40 point season for Wingels certainly isn’t out of the question, especially with the way his line with Pavelski and Matt Nieto has been playing.
However, arguably more important than 40 points is his attention to detail in the defensive zone.
Wingels has been getting more shorthanded ice time this year and has been doing a phenomenal job clogging up the lanes. Like Pavelski, Wingels is an excellent shot blocker, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done in all three zones.
At Friday’s Sharks practice I caught up with TW to get a sense of how he sees his game developing.
“First off, it’s nice to contribute in the wins. Ultimately the wins are what’s important and we’ve gotten off to a great start” commented No. 57. “Personally, I’ve talked to a few guys, coaches, and you find out where the tough areas are on the ice. For a player, there are certain spots that are easier for you to get to, you find yourself in those areas and sometimes they’re good areas and sometimes they’re bad areas and you have to find the tougher areas. For me sometimes that’s getting to the net. I think some of the goals I’ve scored so far this year it’s going to the net an extra step harder or getting in better position to get to the net. And that’s something I focused on, you know Woody [assistant coach Jay Woodcroft] has done a lot of work in helping me and then playing with Joe, Pavs is a world class player, he makes the game easier for his linemates.”
How did you develop this hard nosed, two-way style?
“I’ve always had the mindset that you can’t contribute a goal every shift [but] you can contribute a positive effect every shift. Whether that is a blocked shot or good positioning or a good stick, you can do that. I try to take it a shift at a time, and have a positive influence on that shift.”
Yourself, Pavelski and Nieto all bring in different assets to the line, is that why things seem to be clicking so well as trio?
“It’s a great fit. If you were to compare players on the team, I don’t think you would compare any of the three of us as very similar players. I think that’s why were playing well together. We bring different aspects to the game. Neets in particular has a great skill set, he works hard, is very quick in darting in and out of holes and we’ve seen a couple times where his speed has really surprised defenders skating up through the neutral zone. I don’t think there is a guy, I mean him and Patty Marleau who skate through the neutral zone as well as anyone in this league.”
And what does the head coach Todd McLellan see from his young winger? Does he see the same hard worker that young hockey players should emulate their games after?
“Everybody brings something different to the game. And Tommy, throughout the evolution of his career has really sorted out where his strengths are, he plays the game hard, he finishes checks, he wins a lot of loose puck battles” added McLellan. “As a result of doing that, now he’s starting to score more. And he’s a pretty bright individual, he understands all of that stuff, you don’t have to keep going back and reminding him. I also don’t think he evaluates his play on goals and assists which is important. There are some [players] that do, they can have a really strong night in a lot of different areas but not get on the score-sheet and be really down. I think Tommy understands that he still has to keep doing these things and the stats will take care of themselves.”
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