When the Capitals took Tom Wilson with the 16th pick of the 2012 draft, NBC analyst Pierre McGuire said the caps were getting a player who could “break your body with hits,” “break your face with punches” and “break the back of the net with his shot.”
Wilson did all three for the Plymouth Whalers at the start of this season, recording 13 goals and 59 penalty minutes in 31 games for the OHL club.
Capitals director of player development Steve Richmond was so impressed that when the NHL lockout ended he phoned general manager George McPhee and asked that he invite the 18-year-old winger to training camp.
McPhee agreed, making Wilson the youngest and least experienced player in camp. Through two days, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound right wing has not looked out of place.
“It’s funny,” said Caps coach Adam Oates, who first saw Wilson in the summer rookie camp. “He looks like he’s older already to me. Maybe it’s because he’s with the other guys. He looked mature and quite comfortable out there. I was impressed.”
So was Jason Chimera.
“He’s a big body,” Chimera said. “He can skate pretty good for a big guy. The young guys have no fear now when they come up. I hear he can handle his own and he plays with a lot of heart.”
Wilson will get a chance to hit someone other than his own teammates Tuesday when the Caps have a scrimmage game against the Reading Royals at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He said his first experience taking part in NHL drills was a bit nerve-racking, especially when he lined up for a 2-on-1 alongside Alex Ovechkin.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, I better not miss him with a pass or anything.’ I just had to dial it in. I grew up watching them all on TV.”
McPhee said his performance this week will determine whether or not Wilson starts the season with the Capitals. Under the new transition rules, rookies with junior eligibility can play six games with NHL clubs before the clubs must decide whether to keep them on their rosters or send them back to their junior teams.
Oates indicated it’s likely that Wilson will return to Plymouth by the end of this week.
“I think it’s too much,” Oates said. “I think George brought him here because he thought it would be a great move for him to see the guys and be a part of the NHL. And for us it gives us a couple bodies to help the guys who are a little out of shape to keep the pace up.”
Either way, Wilson said he is soaking up the experience of his first NHL training camp while upholding his reputation as a fearless hitter.
“I’m a lot different off the ice than I am on the ice,” he said. “Once I put my gear on and get out there it’s a lot different. I’m a huge competitor and when I get out there I’m going to stick up for my teammates and make hits and a lot of physical stuff comes from that. And that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
Loose pucks: C Brooks Laich skated on his own before Monday’s practice but his playing status remains in question. … Oates said he is likely to start Braden Holtby Saturday night in Tampa but made it clear to Michal Neuvirth that with a compressed schedule both goalies will receive ample playing time.