The Washington Capitals are led by one of the greatest goal-scorers of all-time and the first Russian to ever captain a team to a Stanley Cup, Alex Ovechkin. The Great 8 has captained Washington over the last decade-plus, but waiting in the wings, according to multiple teammates, is Tom Wilson.
“You could see the raw physicality and the skating,” goaltender Braden Holtby said to NHL.com’s Ben Raby. “But he was also one of those guys that once he got here, even when he was a rookie, you could tell that he was meant to be a captain in this league.
“He’s evolved as a player over the years,” Holtby added, “but those intangibles, he had them right from Day One.”
Wilson made his NHL debut as a 19-year-old and quickly matured from a seldom-used fourth-line enforcer in 2013 to a first-line forward of a championship-winning team five years later.
During the preseason, Wilson served as the alternate captain for the first time in his career during the Caps’ first preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 16, 2019
The big rig scored a highlight-reel overtime game-winning goal that night, but it was his leadership of such a young Capitals team that got attention after the game.
“I just want to talk about him for a second. He does such a great job with the young players,” Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. “It was really important for me to have him in the lineup tonight just with the next phase of his development as a leader. That was great to see what he does behind-the-scenes. We knew we lost some leaders over the summer. That was a challenge for him and I wanted to put him in a situation where he could do that. Obviously, he’s able to score the winner. He deserves it because he puts the work in.”
“I’m still pretty young,” Wilson said. “But around here (I have) to keep some guys accountable.”
Before the regular season began, Reirden also announced that Wilson will get an opportunity to be an alternate captain if there are injuries to any of the players above him such as Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson who wear the A’s now.
“He’s right there,” Reirden said to The Athletic.
“Todd has been talking to me about it for a long time now,” Wilson said. “I just want to continue to be a leader and continue to take responsibility on and off the ice. It’s something that, over the course of time, it just kinda happens.”
In the past, former head coach Barry Trotz hinted Wilson could be future captain material someday. “I just see the young man growing as a leader,” Trotz once said. “He’s got leadership skills.”
“We knew he was meant to be the leader of a team,” Holtby said. “And he is. It’s not a learned thing. Some people have it and some people don’t. Tom has it – his upbringing, the way his parents raised him… on top of his personality and his drive to achieve. If you ask anyone in here, he’s the guy that’s always bringing the team together.”
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