Capitals general manager George McPhee had no intention of bringing a junior prospect to training camp this week.
Given the 113-day lockout and the compressed schedule, there just wasn't time or space to fit such a young player onto the roster. Chances were the player would have little shot to make the team anyway. But Steve Richmond, Washington's director of player development, argued otherwise. So for a few days at least, 2012 first-round draft pick Tom Wilson has left his junior team, the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, for a stint with the Caps.
"[Richmond] said he's playing very, very well," McPhee said. "He has a chance to make our team. So you got to bring him. If that doesn't happen, it's still a good orientation for him."
Wilson, 18, can appear in as many as five NHL games and still be returned to Plymouth to finish the season. If he plays a sixth, then he can't. That's probably not the best developmental route for such a young player. But there's little harm in giving him a chance to show that he can stick. And at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Wilson is far more physically mature than most prospects his age. He was the 16th overall pick in June's draft.
It's likely that winger Brooks Laich (groin) won't be ready for the start of the season after he missed his second practice in a row Monday. That would leave a spot for Wilson if the team decided to keep 14 forwards and seven defensemen instead of 13 forwards and eight defensemen. Either way, neither the team nor Wilson will have considered his inclusion a waste of time. He's learning lessons every moment he's at the NHL level.
- Brian McNally