Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz got his first in-person look at forward Colin Wilson on the ice, but he isn’t rushing to any kind of judgment concerning the No. 7 pick’s immediate future with the team.
Wilson, who finished his freshman year at Boston University, has made it known he wants a shot at making the Predators’ roster in training camp in September. Trotz does not like to use the developmental camp for prospects as a tryout camp.
“What we want them to know is that if they become the best players they can be, they can play in Nashville,” Trotz said. “But we don’t want them to expect to play here because of where they are drafted or who they are.
“They have to earn their stripes. I think out draft choices understand that. Sometimes players are moved along a little quicker than they should be.”
Trotz, his assistant coaches and David Poile, president of hockey operations/general manager, will meet with Wilson at the end of development camp. Trotz, however, prefers that all Predators players make a stop in Milwaukee on their journey to the NHL.
“I love kids who say they are going to do everything they can to impress the coach and make the hockey team,” Trotz said. “You want players thinking that way.
“But we also have an understanding at this camp that there is an apprenticeship program. I have always been the one who has said that the road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee in terms of development.”
The prospects will be back on the ice again this morning at 10 a.m. at Centennial Sportsplex. The public is invited to attend. There will also be an on-ice workout Sunday, but it is a closed practice.
Wilson was met with a crush of media after the one-hour workout Wednesday morning. He did have some time for a brief question and answer period in the Predators’ dressing room.
The City Paper:The development camp started Tuesday, but this was the first day on the ice. What was it like to perform for the first time wearing a Predators jersey?
Colin Wilson:I have been skating, but I took a week-and-a-half off from summer workouts because of the draft. I’m just getting back into the flow. I felt a little bit rusty, but my head wasn’t spinning. It was back to the usual game of reading plays, using my skills and scoring goals. It was fun to show off our skills to everyone in the stands and to each other.
I’m not signed or anything, but it felt good to put on the uniform and have to wear a half-shield with my helmet instead of a full cage like we have to wear in college hockey.
TCP:Scott Hartnell is the last player to make this team without having to spend anytime with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. He was known for using his size and scoring from in front of the net. Are you being compared to him?
CW:I actually haven’t heard any comparisons to Harttnell. When people compare me to player they usually compare me to Ron Francis or Chris Drury.
I would like to follow in Hartnell’s footsteps and make this team as an 18-year-old. That’s the reason why I am taking it pretty seriously out there. I want to show what I can do.
TCP: If you come to training camp and do not make the NHL roster, that would mean a trip to Milwaukee. Are you ready to give up your college career?
CW: As soon as I heard my name called I was thinking that I want to put a Nashville jersey on as soon as possible. Most of the guys in the top 10 want to try to make their NHL teams this season.
I am going to talk to the coaches at the end of the camp. If they tell me I have a real fair shot of making this team, then I am definitely going to make that commitment. If I end up in the AHL then I end up there. If they tell me it’s not there for me this year then I am going back to college.
TCP: Your father, Carey, played 12 seasons in the NHL. In several interviews you have mentioned his influence. What is the most important advice he has given you about playing hockey?
CW: He has always stressed winning the little battles. He stressed to me the need to be a grittier player and a hard-working player. He knew that is what it takes to make it to the next level.
In the scrimmage at the end I had four back doors. I was a little rusty and I didn’t bury one. I wanted to show that I can get to the front of the net. I try to make sure no one can stop me there. I just have to bear down on the stick a little more.
TCP: In addition to your abilities in front of the net, you are also known for being a solid defensive player. Who gave you the most guidance on that end of the ice?
CW: My dad and coach Ron Wilson were the biggest influences on me. Coach Wilson taught me to develop my all-around game. He really helped me defensively because he wouldn’t play me unless I learned how to play defense.
I am a big, strong guy. I can head off a player and bang him around a little bit. It is hard to get around me.
TCP: You were born in Connecticut, but you have spent most of your life in Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At the next junior championships you will be playing for Team USA and will probably face goaltender Chet Pickard, your good friend and fellow first-round draft pick for the Predators, on the Canadian team. Do you ever wish you were able to play for Canada’s national teams?
CW: I am half-Canadian, but I have never worried too much about going over to the Canadian team. I am pretty happy with the U.S. team. They have done a great job in developing me into a player. They have given me every opportunity to do as well as I can.