The Nashville Predators are expecting big things from Colin Wilson, the team’s 2008 first-round draft choice, who agreed to terms Friday on a three-year contract.
Fresh off of winning the Frozen Four NCAA hockey championship with Boston University, Wilson is now heading to Switzerland to play in the World Championships with the chance to compete for a roster spot in Nashville next season.
Wilson, who hails from Greenwich, Conn., said the decision to turn professional and sign with the Predators was an easy one, especially after being a First Team East All-American and winning the championship at BU.
“After we won the championship, I was pretty certain I wanted to turn pro. In my mind, I felt I was ready to make that jump. It was the next step in my career,” Wilson said. “I’m leaving on great terms with my coaches and everybody at BU. I talked it over with my parents and they felt it was a great time to leave too.”
The Predators traded away their first-and second-round picks in last year’s NHL Entry Draft to move up to the seventh overall position to select Wilson, a forward that Nashville General Manager David Poile said will be able to play the center position at the pro level.
“I’m very enthusiastic and convinced that we have an up-and-coming very top player,” Poile said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on young Colin Wilson, but we really went out of our way last year to draft him. We moved up in the draft and gave up a second round pick to get him.”
Wilson, 19, had 17 goals and 38 assists for Boston University as a sophomore this past season.
The question for Wilson in the 2009-10 season becomes whether he will begin the season in Nashville or with the Predators’ top farm club, the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
“What we always want to do is put players in position where they can be successful,” Poile said. “Colin Wilson is going to play in the National Hockey League, but we don’t want it to be just one game. We want a career out of it. If he has the physicality and the ability to contribute, he’ll start out with us. If not, he’ll go down to Milwaukee.”
That depends on his progress between now and throughout training camp. But playing with and against professional players in the World Championships should be a decent barometer of where Wilson is in his maturation process.
“I know it’s going to be a great challenge, and I’m definitely up for it,” Wilson said of playing in the World Championships. “I’m going to be playing with a lot of pros and I’m going to be able to learn a lot from them about how they handle themselves, and what they do before a game and just the things that I need to work on in order to be in the lineup for the Predators.”
Poile also did not rule out Wilson making a token appearance with the Admirals after the World Championships are over, if Milwaukee is still alive in the AHL playoffs when that ends.
Wilson was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which honors college hockey’s top player.
Poile said he hopes Wilson’s college accomplishments are just the beginning for him.
“I told him today that that’s just another chapter in his book, and if he’s got stories like this in the next few years this is going to be an exciting ride for him and us,” he said.