19-year-old Tom Wilson set to make NHL debut in playoffs
Tonight will be a big night for the Wilson family.
While 19-year-old Tom Wilson will be making his NHL debut for the Capitals in Game 5 against the New York Rangers at VerizonCenter, his 17-year-old brother Jamie will be attending his senior prom in Toronto.
Can you guess what Mr. and Mrs. Wilson will do tonight?
Kevin Wilson, Tom’s dad, is catching a flight from Toronto to Washington and will be in the crowd tonight with Tom’s older brother, Pete, 24.
Neville Wilson, Tom’s mom, will stay home and take pictures of Jamie and his prom date.
“Apparently, my mom said [the prom] trumps this,” Tom Wilson said. “He’s trying to be a good boyfriend.”
When the puck drops tonight Wilson will become the fourth player in Capitals history to make his NHL debut in a playoff game, joining Trent Whitfield , Chris Felix and Grant Jennings (1988).
It is a bold move by Capitals coach Adam Oates, who had the choice of inserting Aaron Volpatti, Wojtek Wolski or Joey Crabb in the lineup when Marty Erat was forced to leave Game 4 with a suspected left arm injury.
Eric Fehr is expected to replace Erat on a second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer, while Wilson is expected to play right wing on a line with Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle.
“It’s something he’ll never forget,” said Beagle, whose Stanley Cup playoff debutcame in Game 4 against the Penguins in 2009 [he played 3:21 in that game]. “It’s kind of crazy, to be honest with you.
“It’s something you almost can’t describe. It’s an awesome feeling but you’re thinking, ‘I gotta help this team win.’”
Wilson was the 16th player taken overall in last year’s NHL draft and he had a monster season with the OHL Plymouth Whalers with 23 goals and 58 points in 48 games, then adding nine goals and 17 points in 12 playoff games.
One day after the Whalers were eliminated by Dale Hunter’s London Knights, Wilson joined the Hershey Bears and picked up one goal in three playoffs for the Bears, who were eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs in Providence on Wednesday night.
It was on that bus ride back to Hershey that Wilson and Crabb learned they’d be joining the Caps at practice on Thursday. They arrived at their hotel at around 5:30 a.m. Thursday, set their alarms for 7 a.m. and made the 2-hour drive to Arlington in Crabb’s car.
Wilson said he wanted to be a good driving buddy by staying awake for the drive.
If Wilson was tired on Thursday morning, Alex Ovechkin didn’t notice.
“I walk into the locker room and I saw his face and he was very excited,” Ovechkin said. “I’m sure he’s going to be nervous tonight but that’s why we have such a good locker room and we’re going to help him. He’s big and he’s tough. That’s what we need right now.”
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds Wilson said he plans on using his size and strength against a Rangers team that outhit the Capitals 38-20 in Game 4 in New York. Spurred by the returns of Brian Boyle and Ryane Clowe, the Rangers’ forwards have taken a toll on the Caps’ defensemen in the past two games.
Wilson, considered one of the most dominant power forwards in the OHL, says he hopes to return some of those hits tonight.
“Every time there’s a chance to hit a guy you should finish him because it’s a long series and the bumps and bruises -- ask any hockey player – they add up,” Wilson said. “I’ve played in playoff games before and I love it and I’m a really competitive kid and I want to win and I’ll do anything I can.”
Wilson said the only instructions Oates has given him is to keep his game simple, play hard along the walls and get pucks out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone to work the forecheck and wear out the Rangers’ defensemen.
And while Wilson is busy doing that, his younger brother Jamie will be furiously trying to chart his progress while his classmates are on the dance floor.
“He might be checking his phone a little bit,” Tom Wilson said with a smile. “She might be upset.”