Wilson looking to second half breakout for UMass Lowell

By Richard Murray

Scott Wilson - UMass Lowell

Photo: UMass Lowell forward and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Scott Wilson started slowly in 2012-13 but has been producing for the River Hawks in more recent games (courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)

After taking home the Hockey East Rookie of the Year award last season, Scott Wilson is looking to take his game to the next level for UMass Lowell in the second half of the collegiate schedule.

Wilson, now a sophomore, was over a point-per-game player last season; in 37 games played, Wilson registered 16 goals and 22 assists. This season, Wilson has 12 points through the River Hawks first 14 games, including 11 points (2G, 9A) in his last six games. Last season Wilson went on a tear in the second half, and his teammates will be looking for that again as they head into the stretch run and Hockey East tournament.

“His first half  [last season] was okay, but in the second half he came on very strong,” UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “We were certainly very happy that he was one of the guys making an impact for us like he did. Scott has to put back-to-back good seasons together now, and I think he is lining himself up [for a second half surge].”

Wilson, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, had to get acclimated to the level of play and speed of the college game last year, and once he did that, it showed in his second half performance. Another thing that helped him succeed was the development of his shot.

“One of the biggest things for me was last year was that it took me a lot longer to get my shot off,” Wilson said. “I worked on it for weeks, and I was eventually able to get my shot off a lot faster. Having that quicker release has helped me score more. Even if the puck doesn’t go in, I can create a rebound, which is still going to help the team.”

Like many college players, Wilson took a year to develop his skills and body before heading to the NCAA. It is very rare that a true freshman can come in and make a big impact right away, so for Wilson, being able to get some extra experience and playing time helped him get ready for the collegiate game.

“I played over two seasons of juniors (OJHL) before I came to UMass Lowell, so it was my second year of eligibility at the NCAA level. Being able to have that experience before entering college really helped me be able to come in here right away and produce,” Wilson said.

As the Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Year last season, Wilson is in a lot of good company since many past winners have gone on to the NHL. Some of the past winners included Charlie Coyle, Colin Wilson, Teddy Purcell, Jimmy Howard, Brian Gionta, Paul Kariya, and Brian Leetch, to name a few.

“Last year there were a lot of great rookies, so with all of them producing the way they did just pushed me that much more,” Wilson said. “It was a great honor, and to see a lot of players who have gone on to have successful careers after winning the award just makes it that much more inspiring.”

Although Wilson has already had a lot of success in Hockey East, he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to be successful at the next level upon his graduation.

“Scott has to work on his consistency, and his play away from the puck,” Bazin said. “Those are two things that every player has to improve on if they want to have a good career at the next level. [You can also see other facets of his game coming along like] how he is managing the puck more [effectively] than he did last season.”

There is no question that Wilson has the offensive abilities to be a successful scorer, but there is much more to his game beyond the offensive numbers. The 6-foot forward does not shy away from taking the body as his effectiveness falls off if he doesn’t bring his physicality.

“It is necessary for Scott to be physical the way he is for his game to be successful,” Bazin said. “When he isn’t physical he isn’t as effective, and I think that is something he has come to learn.”

Wilson has tried to model his own game around Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky, who plays a gritty style of game, but also possesses the offensive abilities to be a threat in the offensive zone.

“I like to play a hard-nosed kind of game with some added scoring, so I have tried to model my game after Dubinsky,” Wilson said. “He is really just that hard-nosed guy that works really hard for his points, and I like to get into the grittiness like he does.”

As long as Wilson’s physicality remains high for the River Hawks, look for him to make a big splash down the stretch.

Follow Richard Murray on twitter via: @Richie_Murray