April 30, 2012

Despite string of scratches, Predators' Wilson staying upbeat

By Jesse Connolly

Heading into the homestretch of the 2011-12 regular season, Predators forward Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn.) was on pace for a career-year in just about every offensive category. 

Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn.), a national champion with BU in 2009, has skated in just four of Nashville's last 19 playoff games. (Getty Images)

The former BU star wrapped up the month of February with four goals in his last six games and seemed to be a lock to stay in Nashville’s lineup, despite the fact that the club went out and acquired multiple forwards at the trade deadline.

Then again, Wilson felt the same way heading into the playoffs a year ago before being made a healthy scratch by coach Barry Trotz for nine of the team’s 12 postseason contests.

“When you finish in the top four in goals on the team and then you get sat out, it’s really frustrating,” Wilson told New England Hockey Journal back in February. “You’re trying to figure out what you did wrong, but that’s just how the game is. If the coaches aren’t liking the way you’re playing, you’re not going to play.”

Despite his red-hot finish to the month of February and a solid season to date, it didn’t take long before – once again – Wilson was the odd man out. The 22-year-old forward played in just two of the Preds’ final 12 regular season games. One of those appearances came in the regular-season finale in which many of Nashville’s key players were rested.

Wilson then spent the entirety of the Predators first-round series against the Red Wings in the press box before taking part in warmups prior to Game 1 against Phoenix in the conference semis.

“It’s nice to know that I’m the forward who’s next in line,” Wilson told the Tennessean. “That’s what warmups means, it’s motivating, it’s encouraging and it’s something to build off of.”

Traveling down the same road and going from consistent contributor to healthy scratch, however, still sounded like a dejecting experience for him.

“I remember having the year-end meeting with the coaches last year and saying ‘we don’t want this to happen again,’” said Wilson, who finished the year with 15 goals and 35 points in 68 games.  ”I did a lot this season or felt like I did a lot. They went with the lineup they thought was best and I had a couple of bad games.”

Trotz finally gave Wilson the nod in Game 2 on Sunday night after Nashville dropped the series opener out in Phoenix. The former Terrier skated on the fourth line and had a shot on goal in 9:04 of ice time – the second lowest total among all Predators. Nashville fell by a score of 5-3 and will head home trailing two games to none. 

Trotz has yet to determine if Wilson will remain in the lineup when the series resumes again on Wednesday. While there's no telling how much the past two springs have weighed on him, Wilson will have the chance to explore his options if he so chooses this summer, as he'll become a restricted free agent on July 1 when his three-year, entry-level deal expires.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.