Asense of shock rippled through the crowd at USA Hockey’s Annual Congress awards ceremony. During his acceptance speech for the College Player of the Year Award, Colin Wilson recited how he had been cut from his Midget team as a 15-year old.
Over the span of the next four years, Wilson has achieved just about everything a college hockey player could hope for. He’s a national champion, was a Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist, ranked second in the nation in points, and was the only college player chosen to the U.S. National Team roster for the World Championships in Berne, Switzerland.
For those who just know him as the hulking center for the Boston University Terriers, a skilled forward with tremendous hockey sense and tireless work ethic to boot, it’s hard to believe any team would decline his on-ice services.
“That was motivation,” Wilson recalls. “I felt like I deserved to make that team. I started to work harder, started lifting weights and skating because I knew that needed work.”
Wilson had a lot of growing to do as a player, and the National Team Development Program gave him the opportunity to do just that after scouting him at a Team Canada tryout in Manitoba. Born in Greenwich, Conn. and raised in Winnipeg, Wilson had dual citizenship, but always wanted to play for the United States over Canada.
“We didn’t know a whole lot about him as a player,” says U.S. Under-18 head coach Ron Rolston, who heard Wilson had some talent and went to the tryout to watch him.
“He played well at camp, and we invited him to come down and look at our program.”
Wilson was sold. He started out with the Under-17 team in 2006 and was moved up to the Under-18 team late in the season, helping it capture the gold medal at the IIHF World Under-18 Championships, and the silver medal the following year.
"They turned me into a hockey player, and they’re the reason why I’m here today."
“I got to move back to the U.S. and move away from home, which was good for me,” Wilson says. “Ron Rolston really keyed in on my development and made sure I grew as a player. They turned me into a hockey player, and they’re the reason why I’m here today.”
The journey to success is a two-way street.
While Rolston and the NTDP coaching staff were there to help Wilson tap into his potential, the future star also put in the work off the ice, taking full advantage of all the resources available to him in Ann Arbor, Mich., to improve his game.
“Colin took a lot of responsibility for becoming better,” Rolston says. “We just kind of put him in an environment where he had to become a better player in all areas of the game, especially away from the puck and being in the right areas to get the puck back so he could create offense for himself.
“I think he grew in all different areas, and we just kind of gave him a setting to do that and the competition to play against to help accelerate and challenge him.”
Wilson centered the top line for Team USA for two World Junior Championships, leading the tournament in scoring in 2008. The seventh overall draft pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators, Wilson will be foregoing his final two years at BU to pursue a career as a pro in Music City, USA.
“I still have to make the team,” Wilson says, not wanting to get ahead of himself. “But I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t think I could.”