Kukla's Korner

A pivotal Predators prospect: Colin Wilson

While Nashville Predators fans are focused on the chase for the playoffs and the question of whether or not the team will act as buyers or sellers at next week’s trading deadline, I thought it would be a good time to take a look into the Preds’ future, with a detailed profile of Colin Wilson, the team’s 1st-round pick (7th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.  He should help the team and should also helps my online sports betting picks in the future

Now, just as with the profile of Chet Pickard that ran earlier in this space, I thought it would be best to get the scoop straight from someone who sees Wilson play all the time, so our guest today is Kat, better known as “Sportsgirlkat”, a prolific Boston sports writer and member of HLOG (Hockey’s Ladies of Greatness). So, without further ado, here’s Kat…

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The collective mass of Boston University hockey fans have a love-hate relationship with Colin Wilson. We love him for his talent. We hate him for the fact that he’s so immensely talented that we probably won’t have him around next year.

Wilson, the seventh overall pick in last June’s NHL Draft by the Preds, is the front runner for the Hobey Baker Award (for those unfamiliar with college hockey, it’s the game’s version of the Heisman) and is easily one of the most talented forwards in recent BU hockey history. As of February 25, he leads the team in points with 41 (14 goals, 27 assists.) He possesses the sheer power and pure hockey skill to single-handily win a game, as he did against UMass Lowell in November. Despite all of his positives, however, he has two weaknesses that Predators fans should be mindful of.

The Positives

His size - Wilson is 6 foot 2 and is reported to be 215 pounds, although in comparison to many of his teammates and those on opposing teams, he seems significantly larger. He uses his size to his advantage, especially on faceoffs. He has a long armspan, which helps him with stick and puck control.

His speed - Last year, Wilson stood out even when he was still getting his feet under him as a college player due to his speed. BU wasn’t known for their speed at the time, which made him stick out more. A team goal last off-season was to work on their speed on the ice, which made Wilson an event faster skater. He also sticks out because he seems extremely fast for his size.

Ability and awareness of those sharing the ice with him - Wilson is a playmaker, and his awareness of his linemates nearly automatically makes a line better. The two wings he plays on the top line with are having career years in goals and assists, respectfully, thanks to Wilson’s passing ability and awareness of their tendencies on the ice and the particular play.

Special Teams abilities - Wilson has contributed to the Terriers’ outstanding penalty kill unit, which has been successful 88.6% of the time. He also scored an outstanding shorthanded goal - one of three shorties on the evening - during the Beanpot championship game in the beginning of February.

Wilson plays a great defense during his time on the penalty kill. He doesn’t hesitate to block a shot down low or make a grab for a puck to try to take it down the other end of the ice instead of icing it. He’s also quite good at pressuring players back past the blue line.

Puck control - As I touched upon previously, Wilson’s puck control is excellent. He is able to hold onto the puck while the opposing team jabs away at him and after changing direction quickly. There was one point against UMass Lowell at the beginning of February where he literally skated circles in the Riverhawks zone - a lap from the blue line to behind the goal and back twice, with defenders hanging off of him. They were literally hacking away at his stick and the puck and he just continued to lap. He then was able to pass it to one of this teammates for a goal. That Wilson was able to hang on to the puck for that long was outstanding, and really spoke of his power and abilities.

Determination - Wilson will single handily take it upon himself to win a game. During a November game at UMass Lowell, Wilson made a costly mistake in the third that allowed UMass Lowell to take the lead. As he stated after the game, it was after that mistake that he decided that since he had made the mistake, it was his responsibility to win the game. He then setup the tying goal, scored the game winning goal, and assisted on the empty-netter, all in the span of the last three minutes of the game.

Two Weaknesses

He always wants to make the trick play - Wilson has often has been accused by his own coach and observers as always wanting to make a fancy play, which is easy for him to think he can do because of his puck control abilities. Instead of making a quick pass to a uncovered linemate stationed in front of the net, he’ll hold on to the puck and try to make a cute goal by stuffing it in the corner of the net while skating by or after being turned around by a defender - which is rarely successful. He’ll lose the puck by trying to score a trick goal. Although this tendency has definitely calmed down since he came back from the World Junior Championships, it’s something to be mindful of. He needs good captains and a coach to keep that in check, which he had at the WJC’s and he has at BU.

Lapses in focus - Every few games or so, Wilson will have a mistake filled night. He’ll miss passes, let pucks get past him, and not chase after loose pucks. He won’t try as hard to make a play, and will dial back his speed. He’ll be very off all night, and will draw the public ire of Coach Parker (as he did last Friday evening against Northeastern, where Parker ended up benching his line for part of the second period.) Don’t get me wrong - an off Colin Wilson is still a darn good hockey player (in the game where his line was benched, he had scored a great sneaky goal up the left upper corner of the net) – but his off days can be frustrating to watch when you know how skilled and powerful he is. Usually, he’ll follow up off days with incredible games, so one need not worry about multiple-game slumps with him.

There is no doubt in my mind that Wilson will be a quality NHL contributor for several years. I don’t believe he’ll avoid a brief stint in the AHL - I think it would be smart to season him there for a month or so whenever he does come out of college to acquaint him with the level of competition and maybe jolt him somewhat out of those two weakness areas. But I think whenever he does leave college - which who knows when that’ll be - Wilson will make the Preds quite interesting to watch and provide them with some definite scoring power.
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My special thanks to Kat once again for providing this, as well to Jennifer Hammer for her look at Chet Pickard back in December.  The wonderful thing about today’s hockey blogosphere is that you can find experts out there who are ready, willing, and ever-so-able to bring subjects like this the attention they deserve!

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