Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson tore the ACL in his left knee in Game One of the team’s first-round series against the Florida Panthers last May. Later that month, he had successful surgery to reconstruct the ligament and was given a six-to-eight month injury timeline.
Fast forward four months, the rehabbing Wilson was in front of a mic at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on the first day of Training Camp answering questions about his recovery.
While Wilson is crushing rehab, he admitted that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be able to push up his late November to end of January timeline to return to the ice.
“Everything has been good, it’s been pretty smooth,” Wilson said of his rehab. “[The injury] is one of those things where you can be ahead of schedule, but you still need to wait… I feel like I’ve kind of been ahead of schedule, per se, since day one. That doesn’t mean much, unfortunately. Obviously, I want to be as good as I can every day (putting in the work) but you still have to wait.”
A report from The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir last week said that Wilson’s rehab was going well and listed “early December-ish” as a prospective return date for the forward. If that’s the case, Tom would miss around 25 games, which is a little less than a third of the regular season.
Offseason addition Connor Brown will be given the first crack at Wilson’s first-line right wing spot, beginning day one of Training Camp on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Brown, an enthusiastic penalty killer, also will likely take over Wilson’s role on the PK as well.
Outside of forced absences due to suspension, Wilson has not missed a ton of time due to injury beyond a concussion he suffered after a blindside hit from Ryan Reaves. Wilson only missed four games total last regular season. Sitting out this long will be a new experience for him.
“Mentally I’ve been trying my hardest to take a bit of a break,” Wilson said. “The one silver lining is the rest of your body can heal up. You can take some time to get a bit of a mental break. During the summer at least, I was trying to do that a little bit and just focus on my knee and focus on my rehab. But obviously, as you get back around the rink and stuff, it gets more difficult when you’re seeing the guys skating and playing.”
Wilson registered career highs in goals (24), assists (28), points (52), and power-play points (10) during the 2021-22 season and made his first-ever All-Star Game appearance. The big winger wants to get back out there as soon as possible but also acknowledges that patience is a big factor in full recovery from an injury like an ACL tear.
“In a perfect world, the team just does well and gets rolling, winning games,” Wilson said. “I’m there for the guys any way I can be. Kind of remove me as an individual, try to do what’s best for my health, my recovery. It’s easier said than done. It’s a competitive world. You want to be out there. You want to be helping your team win.
“At the end of the day, it’ll get difficult as I’m getting down to crunch time,” he continued. “[The recovery process] does show the longer you wait, the better. It’ll be tough mentally, but for now, I’m just taking it day by day and not talking about a timeline or anything because we are still far enough away.”
The 28-year-old Toronto native has not laced his skates up since getting the procedure done. He says that step is still a little ways away and is focused on his off-ice rehab work at the present time.
“I think I probably could skate, but until your legs are the same and until your muscles are all the same, (I won’t),” Wilson said. “I’m going to do enough skating, enough bag skating, enough on-ice stuff before I get back. What’s most beneficial to me this morning (I’m doing) and right now the ice isn’t. When I’m out on the ice that will be the day it’s most beneficial for me to be on the ice.”
We learned on Thursday from Evgeny Kuznetsov that Wilson helps do the deejaying work in the locker room. While he’s out with this injury, Tom may have found a way to help the team from the injury list regarding those tunes.
“Ovi and I go back and forth depending on how things are going,” Wilson said. “Ovi may have to switch it up or find somebody else. When they need a break from my music, Ovi takes over, and when we need a break from Ovi’s music I take over. Someone else may slide in there or I can just make playlists and make myself useful that way.”
Screenshot via Capitals