has experienced a little bit of everything in his first 126 NHL games.
The highly-talented Nashville Predators forward has experienced ups and downs, highlights and frustrations. It is a typical situation for a young and upcoming offensive force. But Wilson isn’t making excuses for the slower-than-expected progress.
Wilson, who turns 22 on Oct. 22, has a couple of simple goals as he works his way through training camp this season: go all out and keep his skill level high.
“I’m just trying to have a little more effort out there,” Wilson said. “I want to be consistent all the way through camp. That is what I’m really concentrating on. I know what to expect because I’ve been in two of them before. So now I’m pretty well adjusted to the scene here. I’m trying to play my game and do better than last year.”
Wilson came out with abandon during Nashville’s first preseason game of the year. In Game One of a doubleheader at Florida on Monday, Wilson scored a goal and added two assists during the Predators’ 5-3 victory.
Wilson has been a work in progress for the Predators coaching staff since he entered the NHL. After getting his feet under him and playing in 35 regular season games and six playoff games in 2009-10, more was expected from Wilson when 2010-11 got underway. He played in 82 games last season and was mostly solid, but when the Stanley Cup Playoffs arrived, the coaching staff decided to sit him in the first round against Anaheim.
“We challenged him,” Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. “He had some growth to go through last year. He was in a situation where his play fell off at the back end of the season. Once we started getting people back, I pulled him out (of the lineup). I think it was a little bit of a hard lesson for him, but I think he’s taken it as a challenge.”
The coaching staff liked the way Wilson responded. Wilson kept up his routine of being the first player on the ice during practices and kept his work ethic high. It earned him playing time in three games in the second round against Vancouver.
“You saw when he came back in the lineup, he was very determined that it wasn’t going to happen again,” Trotz said.
Wilson, who is a solid 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, said he is attempting to round out his game while using his strength as an advantage.
“I want to get better with everything,” Wilson said. “I want to be better in the D zone. I feel like I’m getting better at that. In the offensive zone, I’m trying to create more space for myself and turn myself into that power forward, leaning on guys and beating them wide. I’m just trying to develop my all around game.”
Helping his development this year is not worrying about pressing too much in training camp to make an impression. This is his third camp and he knows how it works, what coaches look for, and that he is an advantageous position since training-camp nerves are no longer a factor.
The coaching staff has been impressed so far in 2011-12 but wants to see more. Mainly because they know Wilson has only scratched the surface of his talent level.
“I think he’s had a real good summer in terms of trying to do what we’ve asked him to do,” Trotz said. “His effort level is very good right now. He sometimes tries some things when needs to use people a little bit better, because he’s trying so hard. I just want him to relax, have fun playing and use his instinctive skills, which he has. He’s a big body. We expect him to be a producing player for us, no question.”