With Stephane Sessegnon's future looking bleak after he was omitted from the squad for Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Crystal Palace after he was charged with drink driving, Wickham has hit form with perfect timing.
Di Canio heaped praise on his 20-year-old England Under-21 international after seeing him come off the bench to transform the Black Cats' Capital One Cup second round tie against MK Dons.
It was not just his contribution on the night - Wickham scored twice inside three minutes to erase a 2-1 deficit and establish a 3-2 lead - which impressed his manager, but a change in attitude in training and his display as a substitute at Southampton three days earlier which signalled a new phase in his career.
The former Ipswich frontman has started only eight Barclays Premier League games for the Black Cats since his £8.1million switch to Wearside in June 2011, but his stock has risen dramatically with Di Canio to the point where that statistic could soon be improved.
Asked if Wickham had given him something to think about ahead of Saturday's trip to promoted Palace, the 45-year-old Italian said: "Yes, of course.
"When my player in the last 10 days changed his attitude and made me happy in the way he approached the training sessions, it was not an accident.
"In his performance at Southampton, he didn't do anything special, but for me it was special because he worked so hard and kept four or five balls that gave us a chance to break.
"And then the last time, you saw what happened. He was crucial - but that's because of what he had done in the training sessions the previous week.
"This is why now at the moment he has reduced to a minimum the gap between him and some players who until today have played regular football because of more pedigree, more experience or different characteristics.
"Now he will have his chance, probably."
Sessegnon's position remains unclear. It is understood Sunderland are prepared to let him go at the right price this summer and a Qatari club did at one point agree a fee, but that interest has not progressed and nor have, to date, a series of informal approaches from other potential suitors.
Should Wickham get his chance at Selhurst Park as a result of the African's absence, he could find himself on the same pitch as a man who wore the red and white shirt with such distinction during the most successful period of the club's recent history.
Evergreen Palace striker Kevin Phillips, who scored 30 goals in his first Premier League season at the Stadium of Light, is now 40 years old, but still making an impact, if now in shorter bursts.
At his venerable age, Phillips, who converted the play-off final penalty which sent Palace back into the top flight, is more often than not cast in the role of impact substitute.
Di Canio has made a point of studying his club's history since his arrival as manager, and he is well aware both of the affection in which he and former strike-partner Niall Quinn are still held in the city, and his enduring quality.
He said: "Of course, especially when he used to play next to the big fella. They were a very good couple.
"It was a typical mixture, one tall who keeps the ball and the man who plays around the big giant.
"He's a fantastic finisher, sharp, quick. He can take on his opponent, so he is a skilful player also.
"When you have got quality, you have got quality, even when you are 45, so we have to be careful if he plays because he can cause problems, especially on the edge of our box or inside the box."