Tom Wilson, the Capitals’ No. 2 prospect, was on the ice for practice in Arlington Thursday taking rushes as part of the fourth line, and the rangy winger could make his NHL debut Friday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.
“I’m just coming in here learning and not trying to get my expectations up or anything,” Wilson, 19, said. “But I’ve been watching every game, I love watching the Caps play, they’ve been very exciting lately and now I’m in the room and stuff and it’s very cool.”
It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for Wilson, who went from playing for the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL playoffs to the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs with Hershey, then to arriving in Washington less than 12 hours after the Bears were eliminated from the postseason.
“It was a tough loss to London in the OHL,” Wilson said. “Then I got right up to Hershey a few days later and jumped right into the playoffs there and I learned a lot there, and it’s pretty much just the same thing here — just coming in here and trying to learn again.”
Wilson, who is listed at 6-4 and 210 pounds, recorded nine goals and eight assists in 12 OHL playoff games and then notched a goal and six penalty minutes in three postseason contests with Hershey. In 48 regular-season games with Plymouth, Wilson posted 23 goals, 35 assists and 104 penalty minutes.
If Wilson were to play six games in the playoffs, this season would count as the first year in his three-year $2.775 million entry-level contract.
Coach Adam Oates wouldn’t confirm whether Wilson would be in the lineup for Game 5 against New York on Friday at Verizon Center. The Capitals have Joey Crabb, who was recalled from Hershey on Thursday as well, along with healthy scratches Aaron Volpatti and Wojtek Wolski as possible options to round out the forward lineup with Martin Erat sidelined.
Erat did not finish Game 4 after suffering an apparent injury to his left arm or wrist in the first period at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. Oates couldn’t offer an update on the veteran forward because the team is awaiting MRI results, but he did rule Erat out for Game 5.
Here’s what the lines looked like without Erat in the mix: