No undrafted freshman is garnering more attention this year than Boston University rookie sensation Colin Wilson. The Greenwich, CT resident turned 18 on Oct. 20, making him the youngest player in Hockey East this season.
Wilson is the son of former NHLer and Dartmouth College standout Carey Wilson. While father and son do not play the exact same style of game, both do have a few similarities other than their last names and donning the #33 jersey.
“I think that they have some similar attributes, but I don’t think that there are many. A lot of times you see a player’s son and say that he looks a lot like his father. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Colin looks just like his father, but you can see some things that have been continued on from father to son such as posture and poise," said Boston University head coach Jack Parker.
Wilson came to Boston University from the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP), where he recorded 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 38 games (excluding international tournaments) in 2006-07.
In international play, Wilson was a member of the Team USA squad that captured the gold medal at the 2006 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship in Sweden. He represented the United States again at the 2007 tourney in Finland. In that tournament, Wilson was instrumental in guiding Team USA to a silver medal and co-led all tournament players in scoring with 12 points (five goals, seven assists). Most recently, Wilson was named to the United States team that will be participating in the upcoming 2008 IIHF U-20 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.
Though he holds dual citizenship with the United States and Canada, Wilson has always considered himself as an American and being able to play for Team USA in the upcoming WJC is a dream come true.
"It just means the world to me," he said. "I am all American but grew up in Winnipeg. It’s a dream come true for me because I’ve been watching the World Juniors my
whole life and now I get to play in it. I grew up my whole life cheering for USA when I was living in Canada, so it was just kind of natural for me. I’ve always wanted to put on the red, white and blue instead of the red and white.”
While with the USNTDP, Wilson caught the attention of many scouts and collegiate recruiters alike. He was one of the most highly sought-after players coming out of the NTDP amongst the various D-I programs. Wilson chose Boston University over three WCHA schools that were on his short list – Colorado College, University of Denver and University of North Dakota. As Wilson explains, Boston University became his school of choice simply because it had everything he wanted.
"I chose BU is because of the school, hockey and Coach Jack Parker was here. I knew that he was a great coach. So it had all of that and Boston is a great town. Those were the things that I was looking for, and that’s why I came to here."
Wilson is an instinctive player blessed with a wonderful combination of size, power and elite-level skill. However, his greatest attribute is his tremendous hockey sense. Wilson thinks and understands the game remarkably well for such a young player. What sets him apart from other collegiate freshmen is how he is able to utilize his hockey sense to better the team around him regardless of which zone he is playing in. His great on-ice vision and awareness allows him to anticipate and make very good reads on developing plays.
Wilson also possesses superb hands. His great patience with and distribution of the puck is really something to marvel at. Although he can often be found setting up one of his teammates, Wilson will shoot the puck as often as the opportunities present themselves. He possesses a very good, hard shot and can get shots to the net. Wilson is equally comfortable playing on both offense and defense. The confidence that he exudes and his ability to step up his game when called upon are matched by his intensity and relentless pursuit of excellence.
"Colin is a really smart player who sees the ice really well. He can really move the puck because he has what I refer to as Larry Byrd court-sense. He knows where everybody is and can see plays develop in front of him. He knows where to go when he has the puck and when he doesn’t have the puck," said Parker. "An asset that never seems to surprise me is that he always collects the pass near him, so that the puck stays with him. I think that’s a great asset, and those things have proven to be very, very good for us."
Wilson is listed at 6’1/215 lbs. His tireless work ethic and unyielding commitment to his off-ice conditioning are evident in the areas of his strength and power. He is a difficult player to move off of the puck and has shown a willingness to play in the difficult areas of the ice.
Wilson acknowledges that if there is one area where he needs to improve, it is being more involved in the physical side of the game.
"I might need to hit a quite a bit more," said Wilson. "Coach Parker will tell me that I need to start hitting guys or else I’m not going to be playing. So I’m definitely going to start getting in and hitting. I’ll need to improve that to get to the next level."
One of the misconceptions about Wilson is his skating ability. Despite some reports to the contrary, Wilson is actually an outstanding skater. His off-ice training has markedly enhanced his speed. He combines that with powerful yet fluid strides and his transitioning is also quite good. As the season has gone along, Wilson’s overall skating has seen a dramatic improvement. Parker explains that the misconceptions about Wilson’s skating could be attributed to a hamstring problem that plagued his young centerman throughout last year and into the first few weeks of this season.
"Colin had a major problem with a hamstring situation that was tight on him, so he couldn’t fire out on his left leg and he was always concerned about it," Parker said. "It almost looked at times like he was skating with a limp. We’ve had him seeing a massage specialist who discovered what to do regarding this one area of Colin’s body that had to be fixed. And now it’s fixed and that has made him so much more fluid that it was like somebody threw a switch and told him that he could skate freely now. All of a sudden, he’s able to skate anytime he wants at any speed that he wants without something in the background that holds him back. Colin is able to perform physically better but it also makes him so much more comfortable mentally because he knows that he doesn’t have something wrong with him. It has taken away any questions that he might have had about his leg and therefore made him much more of an easy skater out there. Colin played with it all of last year with the NTDP and they never figured out what was wrong with him."
"The only thing that I know that I have to improve as far as my skating goes is my agility," Wilson said. "I’ve never felt faster than I do right now. I’m skating better right now than I’ve ever skated in my life. Even now, I’m skating every day after practice to get it better. I’m doing stops and starts to make sure that I do get faster. I just feel that my side-to-side stuff and the starts and stops are what I like to work on."
So how does Wilson describe himself as a player?
"I would describe myself as a two-way forward that mucks and grinds down low but at the same time, can make plays and bury the puck when given the chance. One of my strengths is just that I’m strong. I’m strong on the puck and I don’t get hit off of the puck very easily. I think people should know about my board play and playing down low in terms of that, and being able to do cutbacks between the defense. I really like playing down low and setting picks with guys and moving the puck there because it’s a really strong asset of my game."
Wilson lists two former collegians, including a former Terrier, as NHLers that he admires and patterns his game after.
"The players that I like to play like are Chris Drury and Rod Brind’Amour. They’re players that not only have offensive skills, but also will put somebody on their butt when they get the chance (laughs). So I definitely like to just play my all-around game like them."
However, Parker projects Wilson to be more in the style of a recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.
"I think Colin is going to be a Ron Francis-type of player," he said. "He’s going to generate a lot of offense and he’ll be solid in all three zones. He’ll be a guy that you can’t physically push around."
At Boston University
Wilson can be seen centering the Terriers second line alongside fellow freshman Nick Bonino (SJ) and until recently, junior Brandon Yip (COL). As a freshman, Wilson logs a lot of ice time for the Terriers, playing in virtually all types of situations. Wilson’s impact on his Boston University team was felt immediately and his contributions have helped to make the Terriers not only the top-scoring team in Hockey East at the moment, but also one of the top offensive teams in the country, averaging just over 3.50 goals per game.
Wilson has played in all 16 games this season, registering 12 points (four goals, eight assists). His 12 points leads all Boston University freshmen. In addition to his point production, Wilson is also one of the Terriers top players on face-offs, winning just over 51 percent of his draws.
He registered his first collegiate points (two assists) on Oct. 13 versus host Alaska-Anchorage in the Nye Frontier Classic tournament. Wilson’s most memorable game to date came on Nov. 16, when he registered three points (two goals, one assist) in helping to lead Boston University to a resounding 9-1 win at Vermont.
The allure of playing for a legendary coach like Jack Parker played a significant role in Wilson coming to Boston University. His coach’s well-established reputation of developing future NHLers is something that certainly hasn’t been lost on the young centerman.
"It’s been unbelievable playing for Coach Parker. He’s a really great coach and knows what he’s doing. He really helps me play better because he pretty much only accepts nothing but the best from me. Knowing that he only accepts the best really makes me want to go out there, play my best and get the most out of every aspect of my game."
Like any other young player striving to achieve his ultimate goal of one day playing in the NHL, off-ice training has become an important year-round ritual for Wilson. He is equally as diligent about his off-ice training as he is about his on-ice work. His workout regimen, both in the summer and at Boston University, includes a little bit of just about everything.
"Right after I got out of the NTDP, I went back home and I was training pretty much non-stop – two hours a day, six days a week," he said. "Then I came out to BU for a month and a half and trained here working out with Mike Boyle (Boston University’s Strength and Conditioning coach). We’d workout about three or four times a week as well as hitting the ice twice a week. I did a lot of quick speed stuff. I did a lot of jumping, legwork and also core so I could get a little bit faster and also a little bit stronger in terms of core so that somebody can’t be hitting me over and that I can be stronger on top of the puck.
"We have everything that we need in our facilities here at BU. Right now we have two lifts a week. So we’re lifting in the weight room doing heavy rep stuff like squats and bench press. Then we do a lot of agility stuff and balance core. We do those two times a week. Other times of the week, I just like to go in the gym by myself and do a couple of core exercises such as abs and things like that. I skate twice a week with the team and twice a week on my own after practice."
Outlook for the draft
Wilson is considered to be not only the top current collegiate player eligible for the 2008 draft, but also one of the top players overall. He is currently projected to be a top ten pick. While Wilson’s high ranking isn’t likely to change much between now and June, his performances with Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic and with his Boston University team in the second half of the season will help determine just how early he could potentially be selected.