His rehabilitation from offseason ankle surgery apparently nearing an end, the Washington Capitals reassigned forward Tom Wilson to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League with the expectation that he will make his season debut this weekend.
The 20-year-old Wilson, one of three rookies to appear in all 82 of his team's games last season, fractured his left fibula in what the Capitals plainly described as a "fall" this summer. The Capitals bandied about potential rehabilitation routes for Wilson, including starting the process with minimal fourth-line minutes in Washington before handling more substantial ice time in Hershey.
After practice Monday, coach Barry Trotz predicted that Wilson "probably" would appear at some point during the Capitals' three-game, week-long Canadian road trip.
Instead, Wilson is expected to play in two of the Bears' three games this weekend: Friday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Saturday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Hershey's home opener.
“Obviously I want to play,” Wilson said Monday. “It’s really tough watching the guys do battle every night and watching from the press box. But you don’t want to rush it back. Hopefully, I’m going to be here for a long time and help this team win some games down the road. So I just want to make sure that when I come back it’s going to be 100 percent and I’m going to be able to help out as best as I can.”
When Wilson returns to Washington's lineup, where he will slot in provides ample intrigue. Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan envision a significantly larger role for Wilson, who was exclusively utilized in a fourth-line role last season. In order to provide him with that opportunity, top-six tinkering will be necessary.
Wilson's assignment is not being considered a conditioning loan, which carries a maximum length of 14 days. As he is signed to an entry-level contract, he will also receive an AHL salary, listed by CapGeek as $70,000.
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