It’s not out of the question that prospect Tom Wilson could join the Washington Capitals at some point during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but for now he’s in Hershey with the Bears for the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
Wilson on Tuesday practiced with the Bears, who are up 2-0 on the top-seeded Providence Bruins. The 19-year-old right wing was available because his Plymouth Whalers were knocked out of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs by Dale Hunter’s London Knights.
That’s not the fault of Wilson, who had nine goals and eight assists in 12 OHL playoff games.
“He’s definitely a power forward that has a knack to score,” Hunter said. “He plays hard. I think every NHL needs that kind of player and definitely he does it in junior. But his size and his skating and his ability and I think he will be definitely a power forward to help the Washington Caps out for years.”
George McPhee saw Wilson play one game in the first round and was impressed. He recalled discussing the first-round pick with coach Adam Oates recently when Hunter texted the general manager about Wilson.
“So we called him back and we had a good conversation with Dale about how well that kid was playing,” McPhee said. “He said physically he’s dominating, but the important thing is he’s using his brain; he’s playing the game right.”
McPhee said the Caps discussed bringing Wilson up to the NHL to practice with the team during the playoffs. That could still happen, but with right wing Joel Ward seemingly nearing a return, Wilson is likely to stick with Hershey.
“We like the right side of our team,” McPhee said. “It’s pretty good, and Ward is pretty close to playing, so we should be OK.”
The eighth-seeded Bears could advance with another first-round victory, and if that happens, the presence of Wilson and fellow Caps prospect and Plymouth teammate Connor Carrick cannot hurt Hershey. The Bears signed Carrick, a 19-year-old defenseman who was Washington’s fifth round pick last June, to an amateur tryout agreement Tuesday.
“It’s great to have him with me,” Wilson told Tim Leone of the Patriot-News. “It’s always good to have a friend along, right?”
And good for the Caps and Bears that Wilson is getting a taste of the AHL. Especially because he might be ready for the NHL next fall.
McPhee would not commit to that, but Wilson got a brief look in the lockout-shortened training camp in January.
“They make the decisions for us,” McPhee said last month. “If somebody’s ready we’ll play them. I’m careful about that stuff because it never hurts them to have them play a little bit longer at the amateur level or the American League level. … If he’s ready, certainly he’ll play. He’s going to be a fun player to watch. He’s a real competitive kid, real physical, he’s really improved.”