Last summer, Capitals forward prospect Tom Wilson was an 18-year-old eager to make an impression only weeks removed from being the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft.
After making his NHL debut in Game 5 of the Capitals’ first-round playoff series against the Rangers in May, he’s a bigger, stronger and more experienced teenager as he participates in this week’s annual development camp.
“I actually forgot that he was here because in my mind, after playing in the playoffs last year, I kind of didn’t expect him to be here,” coach Adam Oates said with a laugh Monday. “I imagine for him that it might be a little difficult to do this just because he got to play in the playoffs last year in the NHL.”
Wilson, however, is not taking anything for granted.
“Anytime I’m here, I’m trying to pick up everything I can,” he said. “Anytime you’re at the top level in Washington, ears are open, eyes are open.”
Development camp is an opportunity for Washington’s coaches, scouts and front office to evaluate the franchise’s prospect pipeline. In Wilson’s case, general manager George McPhee is focusing on getting to know him more as a person than as a player.
“I’m not sure we’re evaluating Tom Wilson on his play out here,” McPhee said. “We know what he can do on the ice. We’ve seen it. We just want to measure how he’s coming along here. And he’s coming along great.”
It is expected that the 6-foot-3,
215-pound Wilson will challenge for a roster spot when the Capitals reconvene for training camp in September. The departure of Matt Hendricks, who signed with the Nashville Predators last week and served as a sort of mentor to Wilson last season, leaves a potential spot open in the bottom six. Last season with OHL Plymouth, Wilson scored 23 goals and earned 104 penalty minutes in 48 games.
“If I can do anything to fill that role, then I’m going to do it,” Wilson said.