With the introduction of the salary cap, teams have been forced to ice young, cheap talent in order to squeeze higher-paid veterans onto rosters. In fact, 11 first round picks from the 2008 draft saw NHL ice time last season.
Often, youngsters find themselves as depth players barely able to skate with the veterans. Once in a while, though, a teenager jumps to the league and contributes right off the hop.
Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators looks to be one of those players.
“I know that he is going to have a real long career,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz. “He’s really strong; he’ll put up good numbers.”
Wilson, the seventh overall pick in 2008, has already shown he is capable of doing just that, winning 2008 Hockey East rookie of the year honors after posting 35 points in 37 games with the Boston University Terriers. As a sophomore, he led the team with 55 points in 43 games and was named an NCAA East All-American en route to a national championship.
“He has great instincts for the game and is a big, powerful man,” Trotz said. “He can separate people and win battles in the corners. He has to improve his quickness, though. He is such a great thinker that I don’t think it will be a problem, but that’s the only weakness I see.”
At Boston University, Wilson learned from legendary coach Jack Parker, who has won 11 conference championships and three national titles.
“Coach Parker taught me to just battle through adversity,” Wilson said. “There are many things that come up; sometimes you’re not playing well, sometimes you have an injury and he just taught me how to deal with it and how to develop my all-around game.”
Playing for a successful program at BU also helped bolster Wilson’s confidence.
“You’re on a team that generally wins,” Wilson said. “When you’re on a team with players who generally win, it lets you know what it takes for you to win, what is put into it.”
Throughout his first NHL training camp, which included a groin injury that continues to sideline him, Wilson said he often received advice from his father, Carey Wilson, who played in 552 NHL games.
“I think with training camp, having a dad who played helped,” Wilson said, “Especially with my groin injury now, he talks to me about it. He’s had it before and he tells me just to not worry about it, work hard and get back to full health.”
Despite his injury, Trotz ultimately decided to keep Wilson on the roster for the regular season.
“Whenever there was a loose puck battle, he always won it,” Trotz explained. “He’s really competitive, he wins battles, and he can make something happen out of those battles. He has a big body and we’re really happy with him right now.”
Despite injury woes hampering Wilson’s attempt to kick off the season with a splash, both he and the organization are optimistic.
“I think he may be (a franchise cornerstone) eventually,” Trotz said. “I don’t know how dynamic he will be offensively, but I know that he is going to have a real long career, because he’s sort of a Rod Brind’Amour type…you can win with a Colin Wilson-type player on a regular basis.”
As far as Wilson is concerned, it is simply a matter of getting healthy and maintaining a great work ethic.
“You have to keep working hard and be smart at the same time,” Wilson concluded. “You just have to bear down and do what it takes to make it to the game roster.”
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.
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