Penguins' prospect Wilson rediscovers scoring touch
Scott Wilson, who ranked second in the NCAA in scoring among freshmen, shouldn't be confused with the Scott Wilson who was put on lockdown during the first month of his sophomore season.
Wilson's reputation as a young phenom followed him to the ice, where many of the traits that prompted the Penguins to select the talented forward in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft were often on display.
Unfortunately, his opponents also noticed.
Wilson's resurgence coincided with Massachusetts Lowell's historic turnaround, which resulted in the school's first appearance in the Frozen Four this week at Consol Energy Center. UMass Lowell (28-10-2) faces Yale (20-12-3) in Thursday's semifinals at 4:30 p.m.
“Coming into last year, Scott was really flying under the radar. I don't think the game plan was to stop Scott as a freshman to beat Massachusetts Lowell,” said Tom Fitzgerald, the Penguins assistant to the general manager. “He's not flying under the radar this year, but Scott and his team continue to grow together.”
Wilson acknowledged the stern lessons he received from opponents made him a better player. As a freshman, he had 38 points in 37 games.
“Guys tried to get me off my game, and I wasn't used to that,” said Wilson, who has led the team in scoring in each of his first two seasons. “Growing up, I was never the go-to guy. Teams were slashing me in front of the net and doing other stuff. I just worked through it.”
Wilson, who is tied for the team lead in scoring with 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists), didn't score his first goal this year until the fifth game, against Boston College. He went scoreless for another three games and then hit a stretch where he scored at least one point in six consecutive games.
While Wilson was rediscovering his offensive potential, UMass Lowell won nine consecutive games following a 4-7-1 start.
“Scott had a good year,” UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “He started off slow. It's as much a microcosm of our team: started off slow and gained momentum in the second half. He's someone that can make a play at a crucial time. When you look at the Frozen Four and the regional, it takes someone to make a play at a crucial time.”
Wilson leads UMass Lowell with five game-winning goals. He scored with 30 seconds left in the second period against New Hampshire in the NCAA Northeast Regional final and later assisted on the second goal in a 2-0 victory.
In last month's Hockey East semifinal, Wilson scored the game-winner in a come-from-behind, 2-1 win over Providence. Wilson received a pass while crashing the net, and despite being blanketed by a defender, he ripped a one-timer into the back of the net.
Wilson also assisted on teammate Derek Arnold's goal with just under nine minutes remaining in UMass Lowell's 1-0 victory over Boston University in the Hockey East championship.
“He's one of those guys that makes the other guys around him better,” UMass Lowell junior Josh Holmstrom said. “He's a special player.”
Wilson had a strong rookie season in 2009-10 with Georgetown of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, scoring 24 goals and 43 assists in 56 games. He scored five power-play goals and had nine assists with the man-advantage. In 11 playoff games, he scored nine goals with eight assists.
A year later, Wilson appeared in 43 games with Georgetown and scored 20 goals and 41 assists. The Oakville, Ontario, native was selected to play for Canada East for the World Junior U-19 Challenge, scoring three goals and three assists in five games.
Although Wilson wasn't among the 210 North American skaters listed in Central Scouting's final rankings, he was selected in the seventh round (209th overall) by the Penguins.
“Scott's a heady player who can play any forward position,” Fitzgerald said. “He plays the power play, kills penalties. He's not very big (6-foot, 173), but he plays like he's 6-4. He's not afraid to take on bigger kids. Guys don't understand hitting. Scott does.”
In his first season, Wilson helped UMass Lowell finish a surprising second in Hockey East and advance to the NCAA East Regional Final.
One year later, Wilson and his teammates are two victories from a national championship.
“We're playing with a lot of confidence,” Wilson said.
In his return to Pittsburgh, where he hopes to play professionally, Wilson is excited to perform at Consol Energy Center while showing the Penguins how much his game has evolved.
“They really wanted me to develop my versatility,” Wilson said about the NHL club. “The Penguins have two of the best players in the world (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin). If you can put up a lot of points in the NCAA, you're going to do that in the NHL.”