WASHINGTON, D.C. — Growing up in Toronto, Tom Wilson and his brothers used to play mini-sticks and hockey on the backyard rink, pretending they were NHL All-Stars. So, when that dream became a reality on Wednesday, the Washington Capitals forward got to relive that moment again.
Wilson got the call on Wednesday that he’d be attending the 2022 NHL All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, replacing Alex Ovechkin after a positive COVID-19 test. Immediately after accepting the invitation, Wilson dialed his family, and then, his captain.
“Roller coaster of the year,” Wilson explained. “You wake up and you’re like, ‘Oh no, O’ can’t play tonight.’ I called him on the way here and was kind of like, ‘Hey, thank you, I guess. Because I get to experience a pretty cool event because of it. But I’m happy to represent the Caps and fill in for him. But it sucks to lose your captain your leader and such a big part of your team.”
The 27-year-old has been having an outstanding season with 13 goals and 31 points through 42 games so far. He is on pace to set a new career-high in points (58) and has put more of a focus on expanding his skillset and serving as a leader both on and off the ice. Wilson has spent a majority of the season on the top line with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who will also head to Vegas for the ASG, and he has also taken on the role of an alternate captain.
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Looking back, No. 43 said he couldn’t have predicted a trip to the All-Star Game when he came into the NHL as a rookie back in 2013. Now that he’s headed out west for the festivities, he is excited to make the most of the opportunity.
“I would have never really expected it when I came into the league. But growing up as a kid, those All-Star games were really cool. A lot of those names you watched them, the jerseys, the event, everything was awesome,” Wilson explained. “You always kind of dreamed of being able to do that one day. So when I got asked today, it was a huge honor, huge privilege and it’s exciting. At this point in my career, it’s something that I’m really looking forward to and I’ll take in stride and I’m looking forward to the weekend.
“I’m really excited. It’s one of the best events every year. I think this year’s going to be great in Vegas. The league’s putting a lot of work into it, a lot of exciting names, young players going out there. So I think that’s part of the best part of it going out there meeting the guys hanging out with them and just being part of an overall great weekend for hockey and trying to grow the game and no better place to do it than Vegas and I’m just excited to get down here with Kuz and give it our best shot,” Wilson added.
The 6-4, 220-pound forward said that his girlfriend and their families are currently in Florida for the break. However, with the change in events, they will try to see if they can make it to Vegas.
“I heard [my dog] is happy for me,” Wilson laughed.
This will be Wilson’s first-ever All-Star appearance and Kuznetsov’s second.