Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Coming into this season, Colin Wilson had a lot to prove. He had played in all 82 regular season games in the 2010-2011 season, but was scratched for Nashville's first round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.
It was pretty clear that Wilson was in Barry Trotz's doghouse during last year's playoff run. He had some poignant words for Wilson coming into this season.
"One of the things that played in (Wilson)'s favor last year to play 82 games was that we ran out of bodies," Trotz said. "Sometimes you get in a position where you get a little bit of a free pass because there is no one else to put in there."
Wilson used his benching in the playoffs as motivation over the summer. He had a mental coach during the summer that really helped him learn how to focus and prepare for games. He came into this season with a chip on his shoulder.
Through the first half of this season, Wilson's overall play has been a drastic improvement from last season. He has 23 points in 39 games played so far this year, and has been one of Nashville's biggest offensive threats.
"(Wilson) is a guy that is probably our best offensive guy in terms of the creativity, and the ability to do certain things that other guys can't do. His overall consistency in his game is much better," Trotz said.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Wilson's game so far this season is his defensive play. His play in the defensive zone is almost 180 degrees different from a year ago, which has really added to the improvement of his overall game.
"Last year, he'd have good stretches where he was dominant. And then he would fall off to being very, very lethargic in terms of his play. Not a lot of push on the puck. Not a lot of detail. What he's learned at the end of last year, and early this year, is that he can still be a force offensively, but when you're doing the right things defensively and you're putting in the work and the details of the game, you end up with the puck a lot more. That's been really good," Trotz said.
While he's only 22 years old, Wilson has a pretty good amount of experience in the NHL. With each passing game, he's learning what it takes to be a consistent professional player. He's happy with his consistency level so far this year.
"I think I've done a good job with it. It's more of just a mentality. I think it just comes with playing the game. I've already had a full season in the NHL and a half season. I'm kind of getting used to playing a lot and how you have to keep your mindset throughout the whole season," Wilson said.
Wilson's newfound maturity will continue to be tested as the playoff push heats up in the Western Conference. His play will be critical in determining the position of the Predators at the end of the regular season.
The coaching staff will continue to build more trust in Wilson's game as he continues to mature as a player. Wilson has averaged 16:46 of ice time per game this season, which is 3:29 more than he averaged per game last season. That's just further proof that his role is dramatically different this year than it was last year.
"His role is growing every year. He's an integral part of the power play. He's a guy that can create things out of nothing, which not a lot of guys can do. He has that ability. That's a special ability, and I think there is more consistency in his work ethic game in and game out. That's the maturing process that he's going through right now," Trotz said.
The exciting thing for Predators fans is that Wilson is still a young player. He hasn't come close to reaching his prime yet. If he continues to grow as a player on and off the ice, the sky is the limit for him.
Coming into this year, Wilson wanted to prove to Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff that he has what it takes to be an effective NHL player. So far this season, he's done just that.
(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)