OTTAWA — If there is any doubt that Colin Wilson’s career at Boston University is over, Wilson’s father, Carey, summed things up in a single sentence.
“He’d be prepared to leave tomorrow,” said the elder Wilson, himself an NHL veteran who played 13 years for the Calgary Flames, Hartford Whalers and New York Rangers.
Surrounded by a hoard of media during Thursday’s NHL Draft Media Luncheon, Carey Wilson said that his son Colin’s original choice to go to college was based on the fact that, at the time, being a high first-round draft choice was never really part of the equation.
“He was a good player, but [people] weren’t talking about him in the realm of a possible first-round draft pick,” Wilson said about his son’s decision to go the college route four years ago. “I thought it was very important [at the time] to keep your hockey skills going but also keep your education going. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Wilson’s first season at BU earned him Hockey East Rookie of the Year honors. He was the leading goal-scorer at the World Junior Championship and shot up the charts of NHL scouts, debuting on the NHL’s Central Scouting Mid-Term rankings at number 10 before finishing a slot higher at number nine.
Seemingly, then, if the team that selects Wilson during Friday’s first round wants the 6-foot-1 center next season, he’ll be there.
Wilson, at least, got a single year of college under his belt before being whisked away by the Draft. Two other potential first-round picks who have committed to play college hockey next season are rumored to be reconsidering things.
As was reported earlier this week, Zac Dalpe, who committed to Ohio State, is now considering playing major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League next season. Now rumors are floating that John Carlson, who has committed to Massachusetts next season, may also be reconsidering his choice and could head to junior hockey as well.
According to Ohio State’s sports information department, as far as they know Dalpe is “planning on honoring his commitment to Ohio State.” UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon could not be reached for comment regarding Carlson.
These facts prove that there is possibly a bit of luster that is being lost with college hockey. Once believed by almost all American players and many Canadian players as well to be a great opportunity to get an education and develop hockey skills, there is a realization, according to Carey Wilson, that education can be put on hold when an opportunity to play hockey at the game’s highest level comes along.
“There’s no wrong answer,” said Wilson, when asked which route he thought was better, Major Junior or the NCAA. “[All players] can go back and get their education at any time. It’s really what is the best fit for you.”
Blaise MacDonald, head coach at Massachusetts-Lowell, says that while Wilson’s theory of going back to college sounds good, in general it doesn’t play out.
“In theory, that sounds terrific,” said MacDonald. “But when all of a sudden you’re a 27-year-old sitting in a classroom with a bunch of 18-year-olds, facts and numbers bear out that you won’t go back to college.
“At that age, you’re ready to move on. Going back to college is not generally one of those options. I think that’s one of the biggest misnomers that people have.”
MacDonald also said that while kids can play at the Major Junior level and possibly get an education at the same time, there’s something truly different about playing hockey for your actual college or university.
“Ultimately, it’s the pride of playing for your university, your classmates, the relationships that you develop with your professors that are lifelong,” said MacDonald. “Whether it’s Shaun MacEachern, Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya or Dwayne Roloson, they have these lifelong memories and great careers in the NHL.”
One American player that is highly touted in this year’s Draft has an incredible history of relationships with top-notch NHL players.
Zach Bogasian, a New York-native who chose the Major Junior route over college, saw the Stanley Cup up close and personal as a kid and was coached by one of the game’s legendary defensemen while in high school.
Bogasian had ties growing up with Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils and, when the Devils captured the Cup in 2000, Stevens brought Lord Stanley’s trophy along with the Conn Smythe Trophy he earned as the MVP of the Stanley Cup to his lake house, where Bogasian was staying for five days that summer.
“I got to see Scott Stevens lift the Stanley Cup in front of me when I was a kid,” said Bogasian, noting the moment as something that drove him to be the great hockey talent he is today.
Bogasian also received some decent advice on the ice from NHL legend Ray Bourque. Bourque served as a volunteer assistant coach at Cushing Academy, when Bogasian played his high school hockey. Bourque’s oldest son Chris, who attended Boston University for a single season before signing with the Washington Capitals, was playing on that team.
“It’s great to see guys like [Bourque and Stevens] and the way they are on the ice and off the ice,” said Bogasian, who adds Bobby Orr, his current advisor, to complete a dynamic trio of influences. “It’s good to have all three of those guys to look up to. It’s a great feeling.”
Clutch at the Combine
While it’s not likely that Wilson will crack the top three in this year’s Draft, if he improves from his final CSS ranking of ninth among North American-born skaters, you can attribute much of that to his physical conditioning.
Wilson, according to head of NHL Central Scouting E.J. McGuire, was one of the most impressive performers he’s ever seen at the NHL Combine, a battery of physical tests that help the league and its members measure the strength and conditioning of potential draft picks.
Said McGuire, “This kid absolutely wowed the people who [operate] these combines for a living.”
It would be safe to say that Wilson’s fine physical condition and performance at the Combine might have a little to do with long-time BU strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle. Boyle, well known in the Boston area for the work he once did as strength and conditioning coach for the Boston Bruins, has a knack, if you will, for churning out some of the strongest and best-physically-performing athletes in college hockey.
To the Inch; Make That the Quarter Inch
Think that height matters to teams around the NHL? Proof of that could be seen on Thursday in the measurements assigned to each player. The 12 players that participated in Thursday’s media luncheon each were introduced by a highlight video featuring interviews with the players and commentary from McGuire.
The preliminary screen to each video listed specifics about each player and, when listing heights, these numbers were specific to the quarter inch.
Brampton’s Cody Hodgson was the first to stand out, listed a 5-foot-11.75 inches. Niagara’s (OHL) Alex Pietrangelo followed a similar suit, though standing taller at 6-foot-3.25 inches.