Photo credit: Greg Fiume
Tom Wilson is barely 19 years old. Most kids his age spend their Friday nights drinking at parties in their precious time off from contributing nothing at all to society. Yeah, you know who you are.
Wilson, though, is bettering our world — he’s a hockey player after all — and he made his NHL debut Friday night. Granted, he skated a team low 6:24, but he threw a few nice hits and pushed some Rangers around after the whistle — typical fourth line stuff. His play wasn’t particularly interesting. The game it came in, though, was. The Caps won game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead.
“It was unbelievable — chills,” Wilson told me of his debut, repeating a version of that line countless times while standing in the far corner of the Capitals locker room at Verizon Center. “It was everything I imagined; it was a dream come true.”
Wilson, as you know, didn’t conceive himself a member of the Washington’s playoff lineup until a couple days ago. He played in juniors this year, registering 58 points in 48 games with the Plymouth Whalers, before they were cut down in the third round of the postseason by Dale Hunter’s London Knights. Wilson then moved on to Hershey in the middle of their playoff run. He played two games for the Bears, scoring in one. Ian was there at the time and exclaimed, “I would not be surprised if he makes the Capitals out of training camp next season.” Four days later, he was playing for the Caps, after Hershey was eliminated and Martin Erat’s arm smashed into the ice.
“I thought he did great,” head coach Adam Oates said. “Had a few hits, which is what we ask, skated well, fit into the line. It was great to see his enthusiasm.”
The Wilson family was freaking on Friday thanks to two rites of spring — playoff hockey and senior prom. His little brother Jamie was back home in Toronto along with his mother. Wilson’s dad and his older brother Peter, though, grabbed a flight down to DC. They landed just as Wilson had to leave for Verizon Center.
“I saw them, gave them a quick hug, and jumped in the car with Oleksy to come here,” Wilson said after the game. “It was a pretty special day for me and my family.”
By Saturday morning, Peter and his father Kevin were back on a plane to Toronto.
“I hope they had a great time,” Wilson said.