|Colin Wilson was asked to play for the USA National Team Development Program, where he continued to hone his skills.|
If you were going to build the perfect hockey player, give him the right bloodlines, train him in the right environments, instill in him a knowledge and respect of the game and give him a heart-and-soul approach that leaves nothing on the ice, then you might just have built yourself a player exactly like Colin Wilson.
However, unlike the TV version of the Six Million Dollar Man, who was built by a team of scientists, Wilson has taken it upon himself to slowly put together the pieces of his game, and he has done so with a combination of hard work and efficiency that has led to him being ranked by Central Scouting in its mid-term rankings as the ninth-best North American skater for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
It was a journey that has taken many long years and continues to this day.
Born in Greenwich, Conn., to former NHLer Carey Wilson while he was playing for the New York Rangers, young Colin moved with his family to his father's hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba when he was only 3 years old.
For the next 12 years, Wilson learned what it would take to be successful by progressing through the Canadian developmental system.
"It taught me a lot about how you can't just be an offensive player," he said. "You have to be tough, you have to get in the corners and work hard, and you can't just be a perimeter player or else you're not going to be a top guy."
At the age of 15, Wilson was asked to play for the USA National Team Development Program, where he continued to hone his skills.
"When I got to the National Team, I was brought in as a fourth-liner," he said. "I wanted to get better. I wanted a college scholarship, and I knew that even to get that scholarship, I would have to develop my all-around game. So when I made that decision, that I wanted the scholarship, I knew I was making a decision to be a more complete player."
Not satisfied with just making the national team, Wilson continued to perfect his game to the point that he developed into a two-way player, much like a few of his childhood idols.
Growing up in Canada he had many heroes, but he compares himself most closely to two in particular: Chris Drury, a fellow Boston University Terrier, and Rod Brind'Amour, a former Michigan State Spartan. Each is noted both for their offensive abilities, but also for their skills in the defensive zone.
One might wonder how a 15-year-old player of Wilson's ability could fall off of the radar of the major junior programs in Canada, but he said that late development on his part, coupled with a desire to follow in the footsteps of his father -- who skated for Dartmouth for two seasons from 1979 to 1981 -- put him on the NCAA path.
"I just decided to go the college route -- first of all because my dad went the college route, and second because I was the 144th pick in the WHL Draft," Wilson said. "I was small at the time; I had skill you could tell, but I wasn't dominating the game. So after two years, I got dropped by my WHL team and nobody else was really talking to me. But, even so, my dad was telling me beforehand that I should play college, that it was the best route for me. Also, always growing up I wanted to play college, so I guess it all worked out for me."
Boston University was on Wilson's short list coming out of the NTDP, and after meeting legendary coach Jack Parker and visiting the campus, he was sold. Wilson saw an opportunity to continue his Herculean training methods and a chance to learn under one of the NCAA's most-accomplished coaches.
"Boston University pretty much had everything that I wanted," Wilson said. "It has really good schooling – and that's the reason I'm at college, to get schooling – but BU also develops a ton of great players. They have the best track record for putting guys into the NHL, which is something that I liked. With a great coaching staff, in a great city, it had a combination of everything that I wanted."
Wilson has thrived at BU. The work ethic and dedication that made him the youngest player in Hockey East – he didn't turn 18 until Oct. 20 – also have made him one of the most highly touted college freshmen in recent memory.
His natural tendency toward working out, staying in shape and perfecting the "little things" in his game has meshed perfectly with the Terriers' overall philosophy.
"I train really hard, I try to optimize my potential and be as good as I can, and working out like I do just makes me a better player," Wilson said. "Each time, I'm a little bit bigger, faster and stronger. I do it even during the season. We work out with the team twice a week, but two other times a week I'm in there. I do my own workouts, really just for the fun of it and to keep up my strength."
That tendency toward physical and mental preparation has consistently kept BU a top team, despite the fact it enters each new season with a bull's-eye painted on its back. That winning tradition is another reason Wilson saw the Terriers as a perfect fit.
"Every year they're in the (NCAA) tournament, which is a big deal for the college to have," he said. "They have had a lot of success, with four national championships, and I figured if I was going to go somewhere, I wanted to go to a winning team."
This season, BU has continued that tradition, and is currently is ranked No. 16 in the country. The team suffered a setback by getting knocked into the consolation game of the annual Beanpot Tournament by No. 19 Harvard. Wilson took it upon himself, however, to right the ship, and scored twice and added an assist in a 5-4 win against Northeastern. And he did in dramatic fashion, scoring the game-winner with only minutes remaining to lock up third place for the Terriers.
|Colin Wilson was the leading goal scorer at the 2008 World Junior Championships, with six goals.|
For someone used to playing with older players, Wilson has had to prove he belonged, so it was yet another chance to show he is able to rise to the occasion. He played up a year with the U.S. Under-18 team in Sweden in 2006 that won gold, and then led that same tournament in scoring the following year. He also was the leading goal scorer at the 2008 World Junior Championships, with six goals, so he is used to the grand stage, to the pressure situations. And, he thrives in them.
The bigger the game, the bigger he plays.
"Its more mental toughness than anything," Wilson said. "When my teams have gone into overtime, I'm thinking to myself, 'I want this goal, I want to win it for the team,' so when I go out there, I'm really just trying to raise my game a little bit and trying to get around the net a little bit more. And for some reason in my career, up to this point, they've been going in for me."
The fact that clutch performances are expected out of top players was something Wilson learned from another Winnipeg-based skater back when he was a wide-eyed 10-year-old, again playing up with the big boys.
A skater whose footsteps he'd surely like to follow in the coming seasons.
"Jonathan Toews scored a couple overtime goals against us (when we were younger)," Wilson said of the Chicago rookie. "I'm not going to lie; I learned a little bit from him. He was a really clutch player. His team beat us in the finals one year in a three-game series, and he scored two big overtime goals."
It was something Wilson never forgot in his desire to continually become a better hockey player.
And it's something that makes Colin Wilson a very effective Six Million Dollar Man, indeed.