Prospect Tom Wilson was a late addition to the Capitals training camp roster after Steve Richmond, the team’s director of player development, insisted that the 18-year-old deserved a chance to try and make the team.
It was always something of a long shot that Wilson, a first round pick in the 2012 draft, would make the team and on Wednesday the Capitals returned him to the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers.
NHL rosters must be set by 3 p.m. Friday and sending Wilson back to juniors brings the Capitals one step closer to finalizing theirs. Washington has 13 healthy forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders remaining in camp, which leaves room for one more if General Manager George McPhee wants to carry a full 23-man roster.
Veteran defenseman Tom Poti, who can remain on conditioning assignment with the AHL’s Hershey Bears until Jan. 27, or Brooks Laich, who isn’t expect the season because of an apparent groin injury are the likely candidates. It’s unclear whether the team will place Laich on injured reserve or suspend him without pay because he was injured while playing overseas during the lockout.
“I think it’s kind of day to day,” Wilson said Tuesday. “I’m just trying to learn everything I can while I’m up here and enjoy it while I do. I know jumping right into the season, so it could be any day that [Coach Adam] Oates calls me in.”
Although Wilson didn’t make the cut for an NHL roster, four days of training camp alongside the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom is nothing if not a good orientation for the young forward.
It also gave him the chance to impress Oates, who said he saw progress in Wilson’s game from what the prospect showed during development camp in July.
“He looked great out there, he skated great, he looked like one of the guys and sometimes I didn’t realize it was him,” Oates said after the Capitals scrimmaged the ECHL’s Reading Royals. “Part of his game is being physical and we asked the guys to tone that down and he looked very sharp out there. I was very impressed- very different than rookie camp.”
Wilson took his role in training camp in stride. After a few wide eyed moments on the first day when he realized who he was skating with in drills, Wilson focused on learning as much as he could.
“I just want to show that I am learning and picking up everything as quick as I can,” Wilson said. “These guys are all professionals and they pick it up really quick. I have an advantage that everyone’s learning the new system, so I’m just trying to show that I can learn that and implement that into my game and play smart hockey.”
Thanks to all the fans and everyone in the @washcaps organization for a great week. Wishing the boys best of luck in Tampa on Saturday.
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) January 16, 2013