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There is no disputing that prior to his return following recovery from ACL surgery last year, the Washington Capitals missed the presence of right wing Tom Wilson in the lineup. After scoring his first goal since a January 8 return, the former first-round pick has blended back in seemingly without a hitch.
Drafted 16th overall in 2012 by the Caps, Wilson is one of the team’s most important players, given his combination of physicality, contributions on the penalty kill, and increased offensive capabilities. The 28-year old tore his ACL in the Capitals’ first round playoff series against the Florida Panthers last spring, and had a tumultuously busy several months prior to his return.
“It’s been a crazy six, eight, ten months”, said Wilson in an appearance on the Your Morning Show radio program podcast on DC’s 99.5, “With the injury, and the wedding, getting back up to speed, getting back on the ice. It’s been good, no complaints as far as the gig, and just happy to get back out there.”
Initially making his Capitals debut in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Wilson is entering his 10th regular season campaign in Washington, with whom he has played all 652 of his NHL contests.
“Yeah, I can’t imagine ever playing somewhere else”, Wilson replied on his longevity in one city, “I love it here, it’s definitely kind of become home. You know 10 years is a long time. It’s been an awesome ride, it’s a great city. Proud to play here, play for the fans, and the city of D.C., definitely been a lot of fun and definitely privileged to play in one spot for so long…don’t take it for granted and enjoy every minute of it.”
Wilson’s time in the District has seen him ascend from a fourth-line winger hovering around 10 minutes a game, to a top-line player capable of being a game-changer through all aspects of his game, in that time, he has been witness to and played alongside the accomplishments of Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who is having a historic 2022-23 season.
“There’s always the argument of what era everybody played in”, Wilson said of Ovechkin’s chase of all-time leader Wayne Gretzky in Goals Scored in the history of the NHL, “But history’s history, and when you’re talking about a record like that, you know there’s no excuses, you just go out there, he’s trying his best, and I think he’s going to do it.”
Wilson’s return to the lineup has seen Head Coach Peter Laviolette ease the rugged winger back into his previously-regular roles during games, such as penalty killer and participant on the power play, as the team explores line combinations.
“It’s one of the coolest moments of my career for sure”, Wilson reflected of the reception he received from the Capital One Arena crowd upon taking the ice for his first time, “The reception, the cheer when they announced my name, and Nicky as well, to have the support. It’s something throughout your injury process, you miss the game days, and you’re driving in, you’re watching, you see all the jerseys, all the people coming to and from the game. That’s why you play every night, for the fans, for the city, so it motivates you to get back, you definitely feel the support.”
“Just seeing people wearing Wilson jerseys while I was out for the game and stuff, it’s really cool to feel that support, it definitely pushed me to get back out there, so it was pretty cool when it came full circle and you got to get back out on the ice and get that welcome from the home fans.”
To hear Wilson’s full interview, see below: