Adam Oates: Caps want Tom Wilson to avoid bad habits

July 13, 2013

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Of the prospects who took part in all the scrimmages and drills in Arlington this week, Tom Wilson is the only one with a legitimate shot of being on the Capitals’ roster when the 2013-14 season opens in October.

Where he winds up next season will be one of the more intriguing subplots to watch play out during training camp in September, but Coach Adam Oates knows that this midsummer glimpse at Wilson isn’t a true indication of whether the young winger is ready. Washington did intentionally make development camp a little more challenging for him, though.

“For most of the scrimmages there’s been a couple big defensemen against him on the other side and I don’t think he’s quite used to that, being a big man,” Oates said. “It’s good for him. It’s kept him honest in the games and made him work.”

Oates wants to make sure Wilson continues to push himself forward and even if he ends up back in the Ontario Hockey League next season that he doesn’t take his size – 6-4, 217 pounds – for granted.

While Wilson was wearing a microphone during practice for a team-produced video it picked up an interesting conversation between Oates and the 19-year-old. Oates, well known for advising players to adapt to the dimensions, curvature and other aspects of their stick, suggested that Wilson alter his so that it allows him to be at his full height during play so he can make full use of his size.

“Where he plays he’s such a big man, the one thing that we don’t want is for him to get in lazy habits because he dwarfs everybody over there [in the OHL],” Oates said. “I mentioned Troy Brouwer’s stick – he’s a big man like him and he’s figured it out — so just experiment with it and try to maximize a little bit more.”

Ensuring he doesn’t use his size as a shortcut is the biggest challenge Oates sees for Wilson moving forward, especially if he returns to the Plymouth Whalers next year.

“It’s very difficult. Not trying to compare but a little bit like Eric Lindros, he was so much bigger than everybody in junior he was just cruising around out there,” Oates said. “Tom has that capability, although everyone’s getting a little bigger. We want to make sure he’s on track and any little habit that can help will be great.”

A few other quick notes from the final day of development camp:

>> General Manager George McPhee said he was pleased with their three top picks from the 2013 draft. Andre Burakovsky still needs to add size, which is the main reason why he will take time to develop. Second-round choice Madison Bowey “is what we were hoping for. A little nervous the first day or two but has really settled in and is playing well.”

>> As for Zach Sanford, the late-bloomer the Capitals traded up to take at the draft, there’s a possibility that he will play for Boston College next season rather than spend a year in the USHL before joining the Eagles.

“He’s a big, talented kid just needs time to develop. I think there are some decisions being made there whether he goes right to Boston College or to play in Waterloo.” McPhee said. “It doesn’t matter to us whatever’s best for the player’s development and I’m not sure what it is at this point.”

>> McPhee didn’t single out anyone as the surprise performer of camp, but did offer praise of Riley Barber. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the feature on Barber that runs in Sunday’s dead-tree edition.

“He seems to be better than last year and last year was better than before we drafted him. He’s heavier and he’s a real opportunist,” McPhee said. “He’s real smart away from the puck, and then smart when he gets the puck and can score goals. We like to have guys like that. He’s got a chance to be a national leaguer. He’ll be at Miami this year, we’ll watch him and see how it goes.”

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Katie Carrera · July 13, 2013

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