As we celebrate the Capitals' 40th anniversary, let's take a moment to...
A Very Capitals Outsider Welcome to Tom Wilson
(Photo by M. Richter)
In preparation for Tom Wilson’s NHL debut tonight, Katie Carrera posted this great story on Capitals Insider. It’s full of endearing quotes from Wilson and his new coach and teammates. All the things in that story are significantly (even infinitely) more true than the entirely satirical modifications to the story I made below. So again, the story is Katie’s, the modifications are a) mine and b) not true. This is the work of an increasingly nervous, neurotic and apparently slightly cruel Caps fan who, in reality, believes that Tom Wilson will be a great asset to this team, beginning tonight.
But we did have to give him a proper Capitals Outsider welcome…
Tom Wilson set to make shocking NHL debut in Game 5 vs. Rangers
Tom Wilson never envisioned that his NHL debut would come in the midst of a tight first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, because that would be a crazy thing to envision, and he has some sense of reality.
“It’s unbelievable. I have no idea what’s happening. Literally, in the sense that I have never done it in my life,” Wilson, 19, said after the morning skate at the team’s practice facility in Arlington, while eating a PB&J.
With Martin Erat sidelined indefinitely by an injured left wrist or forearm, and every other possible player the Capitals could have called upon languishing at the bottom of a pit filled with snakes and sharks and absolutely no rope at all, the team shifted their forward lineup and were in need of a fourth-line right wing.
Wilson’s blend of physicality and skill made him the top option for Coach Adam Oates, for reasons that no one can comprehend at all. In fact, when asked whether his blend of physicality and skill had been tested at the NHL level, Oates was forced to admit, “No. It has absolutely not.”
“He had a great year. A big, strong kid. That was in the OHL, but that has to count for something, right?” said Oates, who added that he’s trying not to overwhelm Wilson with information. “We’ll have a chat when he finishes his sandwich.”
Alex Ovechkin knows his newest teammate might experience some butterflies for his NHL debut on such a big stage but he’s confident that the Capitals will help Wilson along.
“Yesterday I walk into locker room, I saw his face he was very excited. I’m sure he’s going to be little bit nervous tonight but that’s why we have such a good locker room, we’re going to help him,” Ovechkin said. “I think he might still get squished like bug, though.”
The 6 foot 4, 210 pound winger plays a similar style to that of Boston’s Milan Lucic. He doesn’t hesitate to throw his weight around, finishes his checks and over the past year he learned to balance the physicality with more offensive upside. He recorded 23 goals, 35 assists and 104 penalty minutes for the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers this season. JUST TO BE CLEAR, THAT’S THE ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE.
Wilson, who was selected 16th overall in the 2012 draft, believes his game lends itself to postseason play, but is quick to admit that he actually has no idea. However, in some extremely abstract, very theoretical way, he’s well suited to jump into this gritty series and help Washington counteract Rangers like Ryane Clowe, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett.
“Every time there’s a chance to hit a guy, you should finish him because in a long series the bumps and the bruises, if you ask any hockey player, they add up,” Wilson said between swigs of apple juice, hypothesizing about what NHL hockey is like. “So guys finish their checks in the playoffs and they play hard. I’ve seen it on TV.”
Key for Wilson will be not vomiting on his teammates, and also walking the fine line between physical play and unnecessary penalties. For as much as Wilson decreased his penalty minutes during the regular season in juniors (down from 141 in 2011-12), he had 41 in 12 OHL playoff games. Again, that’s the Ontario Hockey League, which is real, though not necessarily important. In three Calder Cup playoff games with Hershey, Wilson spent six minutes in the box and had two penalties in his first AHL game, indicating that when it comes to penalties, he will be pretty much on par with his new NHL teammates.
Wilson said Matt Hendricks pulled him aside on Thursday and already told him not to over-complicate things in his first NHL game and the Capitals’ veteran grinder believes the youngster will fit in well on the fourth line.
“I tried to be nice, but honestly, who knows. [If] you get pucks to him in the corners, you really have no idea what’s going to happen next,” Hendricks said. “I think with his game, he’s going to be strong in front the net- point shots and such, like they do in this ‘OHL’ I’m suddenly hearing so much about.”