Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson received a seven-game suspension following a hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo. Wilson has since served his seven games and is eligible to return to play for the Capitals game against the New York Rangers on March 20.
Without Wilson, the Capitals were 7-0, including an important win over the New York Islanders on March 16. With Wilson expected to return on March 20, let’s take a look at the players who shined in his absence and what fans can expect from him in the future.
The Capitals have their fair share of star players. Hockey fans are familiar with stars Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, TJ Oshie, Jakub Vrana and John Carlson. While these players are skilled and are key to the organization, it is important to recognize others who have been playing well.
Daniel Sprong has been crucial for Washington this season. The Capitals called him up in January when they were missing key players and kept him around for ten games. He did not receive much ice time, but held his own and generated a few points and scoring opportunities. Washington brought him up once again on March 7, for the first of seven games without Tom Wilson.
In Wilson’s absence, Sprong has scored three goals, contributed one assist and played for around 13 minutes per game. Sprong has demonstrated his shooting abilities as well as his playmaking skills. He was not there to just fill a roster spot, he was there to help the team and win games.
Connor Sheary has also stepped up for the Capitals. He has been receiving more ice time as of late and has been seen on one of Washington’s powerplay units. This is an important recognition on a team that excels on the powerplay. Sheary has one goal and two assists in Wilson’s absence and he has proved himself to be a reliable forward.
The Capitals’ so-called “hitting line” of Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin, and Garnet Hathaway has been important for Washington in providing physical play with Tom Wilson out. They are also important defensively and on penalty kill units.
Washington’s defense has had a few rough patches this season but has been playing well recently. Partnerships between defensemen have been so reliable that Head Coach Peter Laviolette was hesitant to give ice time to Jonas Siegenthaler or Trevor Van Riemsdyk during their respective stints as the seventh defenseman for Washington. Improved defensive play has been important for Washington without Wilson, and will continue to be important when Wilson returns.
Defensemen have also been more noticeable on offense. John Carlson can be relied on to generate offense, but Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen have also been seen getting involved on offense recently.
Moving Forward for Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson will return to a red hot team. In a press conference on Friday, March 19 Wilson expressed that he has been staying in shape and has been practicing with the team. The Capitals hope that he will return well-rested and ready to play.
Wilson has been a consistent goal scorer and assists contributor for Washington in recent seasons. He is also part of the penalty kill and provides physicality for the team. If Wilson returns to his quality of play from before his suspension Washington will gain yet another strong forward.
While Wilson expressed a desire to avoid suspension in his press conference, it is unlikely that Wilson will return a changed player. Wilson has over 1,000 penalty minutes in his 543 game career. He has participated in his fair share of fights. He has been suspended in the past and is likely to be suspended in the future. Love him or hate him, Tom Wilson is a physical player and will remain that way.