Scott Wilson’s NHL debut didn’t go as planned.
Making his debut against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 2, Wilson was recalled in place of Sidney Crosby, who came down with a case of the mumps.
Seeing just 4:21 minutes of ice time - seven shifts - before going down with a leg injury, what was supposed to be one of the best nights of his life turned out to be a nightmare.
Despite leaving his first NHL game early with an injury, Wilson was able to redeem himself in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Rangers. Playing in Games 3, 4 and 5, Wilson played between six and seven minutes a night for the Pens.
“Even though I only played (Games) 3, 4 and 5, just watching the first two in New York was incredible,” Wilson said. “I was star-struck at first a little bit being in that arena and then coming back to Pittsburgh in another arena like that. But it was good for me to just be around the guys, I think, at that point, and see what it takes to be at that level at that point of the season. I think, playing the last three games was again a big confidence booster, and I needed that going into this year.”
Due to that experience, Wilson - coming off his first professional season in the Pens organization - is ready to challenge for a bottom-6 spot in training camp.
The 23-year-old Oakville, Ontario native will draw from his playoff experience while fighting for a role in the NHL.
“I think I kind of had a tough go of my first game (with Pittsburgh) getting hurt,” Wilson said. “But being back in the playoffs was huge. Not only a confidence booster, but also I understood the game and the playoff-type style, and I think Pittsburgh kind of plays like that the whole year and that type of style. So yeah, with spots being open it’s whoever grabs it.”
Coming off of a season in which he played mainly in a top-6 role for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens, Wilson has the offensive skills and the smart, two-way game needed to be successful at the NHL level in a bottom-6 role. In 55 games with the Pens last season, Wilson recorded 41 points (19G-22) and added another four points (2G-2A) in three Calder Cup playoff games.
Heading into the 2015-16 season the confidence is there, both internally and from the organization, regarding Wilson. The coaching staff likes his game at both ends of the ice, but that won’t stop Wilson from improving in every way he can.
“The last five years it’s been pretty much the same thing: get a little bit bigger each year,” said the 5-foot-11, 183-pound forward. “Not for the sake that I come in and can’t move and feel sluggish, but I think just getting a little bit bigger and working on everything. It’s all about the little things, and I don’t think you can be too good at those.”
For Wilson, he’s counting on the three-game showing in the playoffs and the work he’s put in this off-season will help propel him into a key role in the bottom-6 next season. Although he was unable to skate during development camp, Wilson says he’ll be ready to compete in training camp in September for a spot on the NHL roster.