It may be hard to believe, but Washington Capitals Right Wing Tom Wilson is entering his ninth NHL season, although he is just 27-years old. On Monday, the former first-round pick talked about playing with Alex Ovechkin, what he’s seen from Capitals top prospect Connor McMichael, and the team’s leadership group and more, including his expectations for himself entering the season.
Having been a member of the Capitals for nine seasons, Wilson has been witness to many milestones reached by the team captain, and in discussing Ovechkin, had nothing but high praise for the newly-inked franchise great.
“He just keeps going, he’s a machine. Every day I’ve ever seen him at the rink he just wants to be great and he is and doesn’t stop, he just keeps going. There are days when guys are done and he’s going to the track for more, so it’s great, amazing leadership. On an individual note, I think he just wants to keep going, he wants to be the best and I think that’s what makes him so awesome.”
Wilson was asked about the Capitals signing Ovechkin to a new, five-year contract in the offseason and he insisted that the deal was a mere formality to keep the 2004 first overall pick in Washington for good.
“I think no one was that surprised. You know in my mind he is always a Cap, always will be a Cap. So when that deal happened, I think it was more of a formality. He’s still got it, still scoring goals. It’s great to have a front row seat over the years, and hopefully he just keeps going, plays forever.”
Additionally, Wilson talked about Ovechkin’s ability to continue to be productive and his chase for the all-time Goals Scored record of Wayne Gretzky, stating his belief that there is some pressure on Ovechkin’s teammates to help him achieve that.
“There’s probably a certain amount of pressure on the guys around him to keep giving him the pucks, and getting him in good spots and if you do that he’s going to score, he’s proven that. So as a group, it’s something truly special and if he’s got an open look you’ve got to get him the puck because he’s got like 160 more to go or something like that [165 to surpass Gretzky], so one at a time, or in his case three at a time or four at a time.”
Wilson also talked about 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael and what he has seen from the team’s top prospect in training camp and reflected on his first year in the NHL, lauding the team’s leadership group.
“You know he’s a quiet kid that puts his head down and works and shows up and I think he’s got a ton of skill, he’s got a ton of upside. And the more and more he comes out of his shell I think the more you’re going to see more of that. It’s tough coming into this group it’s another whole new level, he’s still very young and had a good year at pro last year and he just wants to keep building on it and if he does that he’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time.”
Next, Wilson reflected on his time as a young player on the team.
“Some of the best years of my life honestly, just being the young guy in such a great room, you just come in, don’t have to take yourself too seriously, can just be yourself. That’s something that this team is, you guys might not see it, may see some of it, behind the scenes the core leadership group since I’ve been here has been so good at making me feel comfortable. And anyone who comes in here, whether you’ve had a tough point in your career, whether you’re a kid, whether you’re a veteran guy, you just get accepted and you’re able to do what you do best. So I don’t think that’s any different for Mikey [McMichael] or Lappy [Hendrix Lapierre] and those young guys coming in. It’s a good group, special group and you just go out there and hopefully fill the net with pucks.”
While complimenting the team’s veterans, Wilson also insisted that the team’s young players have a role to play when it comes to adding to the team’s morale.
“100 percent. That’s what it’s all about. I remember when I came in, it was just so much fun and you just try to be the kid. You don’t have to grow up too fast, obviously it’s your job and you want to produce and play well but it’s such a fun job you get to come to the rink with the guys every day, so when we have those young guys coming in, I think it reminds you of those days and they’re out, go back for a three-hour nap, play video games, go to the bar or whatever and everyone else is at home taking care of their families, it’s fun to see the energy and you need that in your group.”
Wilson also discussed the absence of Center Nicklas Backstrom, who is continuing to recover from a hip ailment,
“It’s weird. It’s definitely kind of been a non-presence that you notice, but he’s been in there working out and rehabbing and stuff so we see him around the rink and it’s different when you get out there on the ice and he’s not there but hopefully he’s coming along and when we get him back, it’s one of those guys it’s hard for anyone to fill in. But he’s been around and it’s fun to see him and he’s been progressing and hopefully he gets back and starts making magic like he always does.”
Lastly, Wilson discussed his expectations going into the 2021-22 season,
“I think for me, it’s just, every year look at it as a new year and a year all on its own. When I signed my contract, I wasn’t like ‘okay, I have six years’, I got one. You want to play well, you want to prove yourself every year, it’s such a tough league and if you don’t play well that doesn’t happen. So when you come in as a kid you get more and more responsibility, your role grows, and every year you just look at that year and try to do whatever you can to help the team win, and individually do whatever you can to help the team win”.
By Michael Fleetwood