How close is Caps' Tom Wilson?

How close is Caps' Tom Wilson?
May 16, 2013, 1:00 pm
Share This Post

Not every player makes his NHL debut during the playoffs. In fact, 19-year-old Tom Wilson became the first Capitals player to do so as a teen when he got the call to replace the injured Martin Erat in Game 5 of Washington's series with the Rangers. 

In his three games with the Caps, the right winger played alongside Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, recording eight hits and four shots in 26 shifts. 

"I'm always learning," said Wilson as the Capitals made their final media appearances of the season. "Hendricks and guys are teaching me. Every time I was out on the ice I definitely felt a little bit more comfortable every shift."

Wilson joined the Caps shortly after a quick three-game stint with Hershey where he recorded a goal before the Providence Bruins shut the door on the Bears' season. Just before his recall to Hershey, Wilson's playoff campaign with junior hockey's Plymouth Whalers ended at the hands of Dale Hunter's London Knights. 

"Definitely a lot of highs and lows," said Wilson of his three first-round eliminations with three different teams this spring. "Lows losing and then I got called up to Hershey. I was pretty excited and then lost there. Then right after the loss they told me I was coming up here so there was not a lot of time to dwell on the lows. An exciting time.

"It's really a privilege to have had that opportunity. I'm just going to work hard in this offseason and hopefully come in in September and make an impact."

At 6-4, 210 pounds, Wilson didn't appear out of place on NHL ice, but that doesn't mean the 2012 first-round pick will have a starting spot in Washington anytime soon. 

"I explained to him, 'we're going to do what's best for your development,'" Capitals George McPhee explained to reporters after meeting with Wilson on Wednesday. "Right now I'm not sure what that is. Is it, go back to junior and be on the power play and score 40 goals next year or come and play with us for eight to ten minutes a game and survive? I don't want him to be a career survivor though. I want him to develop." 

In his third season with the Whalers, Wilson scored 23 goals in 48 games and added 35 assists, good for fourth on the team in points, 47th in the league. 

The likely scenario will be for Wilson to return to the Whalers for another season before joining Hershey, where he can continue to grow and be a quick road trip away from the Caps. And though McPhee left the door open a crack when speaking with the media on Wednesday, it's fairly obvious to read between the lines when it comes to his plans for Wilson's future with the team.  

"I'm not sure right now what the answer is to that but he'll probably provide the answer when he comes to training camp. They make the decisions for us based on how they play. I thought he played really well for us in three games in the playoffs. He's a big kid who works his tail off. He's got good speed and he's going to get even bigger now. He's only 19. So we'll see what he looks like in training camp because we want him to be a good player for a long time.

"A lot of times these kids come in and they look good in camp and then they look good in October and by December they're not playing much and they start to fade. Then they don't really want to go back to juniors so when you send them back there they're not having fun there. Over the years I've tried to try and cut them early and send them back so there's no temptation there to keep them around. But this guy's a first round pick and he played a year of junior after we drafted him. Nothing like Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] and Nicky [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Marcus] Johansson, these guys they played one year and then we started looking."