Tom Wilson played only 6 minutes 24 seconds in his NHL debut in Game 5 Friday night, but the young winger still managed to make a solid first impression.
He was credited with a shot on goal and four hits in just eight shifts while demonstrating his strong skating ability and ably protecting the puck with his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame. True to his reputation, Wilson wasn’t afraid to get his nose dirty – he exchanged shoves with Brian Boyle in the second period and sparked a scrum in the neutral zone.
“For a 19-year-old to come in and establish a little bit of a presence out there and not back down from anyone, starting stuff and playing a solid fourth-line game, that says a lot about his character,” said Jay Beagle, who skated on the fourth line with Wilson.
Coach Adam Oates said that if not for the penalties the Capitals took early on in the game, he likely would have used Wilson more. So don’t be surprised to see more ice time for the 2012 first-round draft pick, depending on the game situation.
“I talked to him today a little bit. If we didn’t get those four penalties early, he would have had a couple more shifts in there to get a little more ice time and maybe a little bit more relaxed,” said Oates, who added that he was pleased with Wilson in the brief playing time the winger received.
“There was a couple times he went in as F1 on the forecheck, which I knew he could do that,” Oates said. “He put a good hit on a guy and turned the puck over, and that’s what that line – we need that energy from that line. That’s what we expect.”
Wilson admitted he was a little nervous early on but settled down as the game progressed. As he adjusted to his third level of hockey in two weeks, though, he still tried to take the time to soak in the atmosphere.
“Unbelievable debut. I mean, couldn’t have asked for any better,” Wilson said. “It was a front row seat to an amazing game. The boys did a great job finishing that off.”