Highly-touted prospect Tom Wilson made his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it remains to be determined whether the young winger will be on the Capitals’ opening-night roster next fall.
As encouraged as the Capitals were by Wilson’s performance in three games against the New York Rangers, they don’t want to rush the 19-year-old.
“I explained to him, ‘We’re going to do what’s best for your development’. Right now I’m not sure what that is,” General Manager George McPhee said Wednesday. “Is it go back to junior, be on the power play and kill penalties and score 40 goals? Or come and play with us for 8 to 10 minutes a game and survive? I don’t want him to be a career survivor, though. I want him to develop.”
Wilson found himself in the lineup after veteran winger Martin Erat dislocated his elbow in Game 4. The Toronto native played the final three games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series skating no more than 9:02 in a limited, fourth-line role in those appearances.
While Wilson wasn’t counted on to make a game-changing impact and didn’t record a point, he displayed his strong skating ability, willingness to finish a hard check and rile up any opponent.
“I got a little bit of experience in the postseason this year, which was amazing, and really was privileged to have had that opportunity,” Wilson said. “I’m just going to work hard this offseason and hopefully come in in September and make an impact.”
Wilson was extremely complementary of the way Capitals players, especially Matt Hendricks, helped him prepare for his high-pressure debut.
“I learned a lot. Every time you’re up here, you learn a ton from the guys. It’s a professional environment and a great group of guys,” Wilson said. “I’m always learning, I mean Hendricks and guys are teaching me. Every time I was out on the ice I definitely felt a little bit more comfortable every shift and just got some experience.”
There’s no question Wilson, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, is physically prepared to hold his own in the NHL but he’s still developing the all-around skill set that the Capitals hope can lay the foundation for him to become a consistent top-six power forward.