Capitals’ Tom Wilson determined to regain form upon return from torn ACL

Wilson determined to regain form upon return from torn ACL originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — The Capitals activated forward Tom Wilson off Injured Reserve on Saturday, officially adding him to the roster ahead of their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday at Capital One Arena. He’s expected to make his season debut after missing the first three months recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in last year’s playoffs.

Wilson, 28, was coming off the best regular season of his career when suffered the injury to his left knee just three shifts into Game 1 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Florida Panthers. Named an All-Star for the first time, he set personal bests in goals (24) and assists (28) while skating on the team’s first line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

“Obviously, the magnitude of that injury at the time, I was like it’s the end of the world,” Wilson said at practice Wednesday. “You hear ACL as an athlete, and you’re like, ‘This is really not good.’ So, it was tough, but I tried to just focus on the positives.”

He underwent surgery May 24 and has been rehabbing ever since. A player who had never missed more than 20 games in a single season, Wilson was forced to sit out the entire first half of the Capitals’ schedule. He felt that he could have returned in December had the Capitals really needed him but opted instead to wait until he was ready to return at full strength.

“The toughest part is not being out there,” Wilson said. “But it’s one of those things where I just try to focus on the positives. The rest of my body got a bit of a break. It’s no secret I play a hard brand of hockey and at the end of last year I had a great season and then I busted my knee, and it was going to be six-to-eight months. So, you try to look at the positives that it’s going to be six-to-eight months for the rest of my body.”

The Capitals have no plans to ease him or Nicklas Backstrom, who is also set to make his return from offseason hip resurfacing surgery on Sunday, back into their top six or special teams units. Wilson recorded more ice time on the penalty kill than any other Washington forward in 2021-22 and he’ll represent a massive boost to a unit that has been steadily improving as the season has gone on.

Despite all the injuries the Capitals have sustained, they’re playing some of their best hockey in years with a 12-2-2 record over their last 16 games. Wilson reached new heights last season and remains in the middle of his prime; only eight players on the Capitals’ 23-man roster are younger than him.

After months of rehabbing off to the side, testing his mental fortitude, regaining strength and donning non-contact jerseys, Wilson is back.

“My expectation is that I have to be where I was before,” Wilson said. “That’s the only acceptable outcome. I want to be the player that I was before [through] this whole process I’ve had that in mind and that’s been my goal…this whole process has been designed with our support team and our medical staff and surgeon and everything to make sure that when I’m back, I’m the player I want to be.”