Developing Story: Scott Wilson
In Developing Story, a regular feature on collegehockeyinc.com, we highlight current college hockey players who have developed their skills during their careers – either on the ice or off – and in turn made a bigger impact on their team’s success.
UMass Lowell sophomore Scott Wilson, a Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick, heads to the arena he one day hopes to call home as a higher profile prospect than he was when drafted two years ago.
The Oakville, Ontario, native came to school expected to produce offense, but he enters the Frozen Four even more dangerous thanks to his efforts the last two years. He now shoots harder, more accurately, and does so on the move more effectively than ever before.
"One of the biggest things for me coming into college was I needed to get pucks off faster," Wilson said. "So I've been working for the past two years with the coaches. No matter what the spot on the ice, I'm just trying to get it off."
More on NCAA hockey's focus on player development
Wilson said that after the Hockey East semifinal, when he took a pass in the slot and fired it on net in one motion, despite his stick being tangled amid the legs of a Providence defenseman. His shot beat Jon Gillies before he could move to his left, lifting UMass Lowell to a 2-1 win.
"At the end of the day, Scott Wilson makes a play," Providence head coach Nate Leaman said. "He's a big-time player, and he made a heckuva play in a 1-1 game."
A seventh-round choice of the Penguins in 2011, Wilson certainly wasn't a sure-fire prospect at the time, but his development has to have put him more on the NHL team's radar. It's not too far fetched that his progression may have made the hosts more comfortable with trading other Frozen Four participants Kenny Agostino and Ben Hanowski to acquire Jarome Iginla last week.
Regardless, the River Hawks' co-leading scorer will be in the spotlight next week as the only Penguins prospect. He ranks 12th among drafted NCAA players in scoring this year, fifth among those who are freshmen or sophomores, and third among those who reached the Frozen Four.
His improvement during the course of this season has mirrored that of his team. Held to just one point as the team started 2-5-1, he has reeled off 36 points in the 32 games since.
Practice makes perfect
UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin acknowledged that transition offense has been a focus in practice for his whole team, not just Wilson.
It's certainly paid dividends for last year's Hockey East Rookie of the Year, however, who has proven to be an even more dangerous scorer in 2012-13 - and helped his team make another step in its development as well.
"He's a talented individual," Bazin said after that Hockey East semifinal. "He's somebody who can shoot off the pass. There aren't many guys who can shoot off the pass, and he did."
Getting the chance to practice three or four times a week gave Wilson the opportunity to hone his shot. He has also had the time - and access to UMass Lowell's brand-new strength and conditioning facility at Tsongas Center - to add strength to his 6-foot-0 frame.
That effort away from the spotlight of Friday and Saturday night games has paid off for Wilson once the puck is dropped. He has a seven-game point-scoring streak headed into the Frozen Four, coinciding with the River Hawks' seven-game winning streak, longest of the field.
He has figured in more than half of UMass Lowell's goals in that time, and he is playing his best hockey as he heads to the sport's biggest stage - and potentially his future home.