Wilson, a high draft pick filled with promise but lacking in high-end results, was a healthy scratch at the beginning of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs before dressing for the final three games and offering a glimmer of hope for future success.
SOG: 3 | +/-: 0
Maybe, just maybe, Wilson is starting to figure it out at the NHL level.
"An epiphany?" Wilson said. "Yeah, I think just the more throughout my career I've realized that nothing is being given to me in terms of ice time and just motivates me to play that much harder. Whatever they are telling me, I'm going to take it in, soak it in. That's what I've been doing lately, and I have been playing harder defensively. I have tried to step up my game after being healthy scratched."
The seventh pick in the 2008 NHL Draft for a team that has not had many picks that high in the first round of late, Wilson instantly became the team's top prospect when he first put on the team's sweater in Ottawa that summer. He also made a quick jump to the NHL, playing 40 regular-season contests and six playoff games before his 21st birthday.
Wilson has stayed in the NHL the past two seasons, but he hasn't fulfilled his vast potential. Nashville coach Barry Trotz can be demanding and Wilson has had to adjust -- especially at the defensive end of the ice.
"He has the potential to be a great offensive player," Nashville center Mike Fisher said. "He had a great start this year. He has a big body and is great down low. He sees the ice real well. His skill level is high. Sometimes it is hard for young guys. The grind of the schedule, it is tough mentally to figure things out. He's kind of trying to do that. He's played good when he's been in the past few games and that is a good sign. He's worked hard when he's been in and that's what you need to do.
"Sometimes you just go through different things. For me, I went through some injuries and had to overcome some of those things. There were some ups and downs. It is not easy coming in -- there are all different parts of the game that you have to learn. Some guys it takes longer than others."
Wilson played on the third line in Game 3 and earned praise from Trotz. He started Game 4 there before earning a mid-contest promotion to the top line in the second half of the third period as the Predators tried to solve Phoenix goalie Mike Smith in what ended a 1-0 defeat.
He'll start there Monday night, with Fisher and Martin Erat, at Jobing.com Arena as the Predators try to avoid elimination at the hands of the Coyotes in Game 5 of this series.
The kid from Greenwich, Conn., by way of Boston University is still only 22 years old. Many, many great NHL players have not unlocked the puzzle of the NHL before their 23rd birthday.
There is plenty of time for that, and these past couple games could be the push in that direction.
"Yeah, I kind of went from doghouse to outhouse pretty quick," Wilson said. "I don't know. It is something to think about, and it is something I'm using to motivate me to play. I realize I was in a bad situation and I don't ever want to go back to that. At the same time, I want the team to win and I want to help the team win."