Wilson’s breakout season result of many small changes

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson is in the midst of a breakout campaign, and on pace to shatter the career-best total of 34 points he set four seasons ago. 

Christopher Hanewinckel/Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Prior to every season over the past handful of years, the same question continually is raised: Is this the year Colin Wilson is going to break out and become the top six forward Nashville hoped he would be?

Up until the beginning of this season, that answer had been an emphatic no.

Changing just a tiny part of any recipe, though, can have dramatic results on the finished product. Bringing in Peter Laviolette may have been the recipe change that Wilson needed since being drafted by the Predators in the summer of 2008.

"We talk about team goals, we continue to do that. [Wilson’s] been terrific," Laviolette said. "Our team, we benefit if they get the accolades. So, we need individual greatness for team success. Not for personal reasons, but for team reasons."

Already on pace to shatter the career-best total of 34 points set during his sophomore campaign in 2010-11, a minor adjustment to Wilson’s game could be the focal point in what’s slowly becoming the best season in the 25-year-old’s career.

"I think I’ve just changed my style of game and putting pucks in the net," noted Wilson. "If I don’t have the puck, I’m trying to be around the net. That’s where things happen as opposed to being a little bit more on the perimeter."

In years past, former coach Barry Trotz was especially critical on the individual performance of Wilson. Just a little over one year ago, Trotz spoke out on his play after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

"He’s gotta score for us. He’s got four goals and we’re getting to 26 games [on the season], he’s gotta be a producer for us. Twice he had a chance to be the hero tonight and unfortunately he wasn’t able to beat [Mason]," said Trotz.

However, with the adjustment to Laviolette’s system, the focus has turned towards players finding ways to collect two points in the standings at the end of the night. If goals and assists come along the way, that’s just icing on the cake.

"[Trotz] always told me to start bringing pucks to the net, things like that," said Wilson. "This year, it was driven home to me that this is what I need to do and I knew it going in. Especially with [Laviolette] emphasizing every single game if we put more pucks to the net we win, that’s just kind of what I’ve taken to heart and been trying to do all year.

"When you take the mentality of just trying to win every game and help your team win as opposed to worrying about your own play, it’s funny how it all works out in the long run. I’ve just been taking that mentality and just wanting to contribute. I think that can allow for more offense."

Up and down the ice, Wilson has been one of the better players for the Predators this season. Sandwiched between Roman Josi and Craig Smith in offensive production, Wilson’s biggest contributions haven’t been where you would normally find them.

Nashville has been one of the top teams this year in driving and maintaining puck possession over the course of a game. One of the primary reasons behind this has been the efforts of Wilson. Through his 34 games this season, Wilson sits at or near the top of every possession-based statistic measured with respect to the Predators.

In addition to that, Wilson also plays some of the tougher minutes against the best players from an opposing team. Only Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Eric Nystrom, and Paul Gaustad can claim to be placed in tougher situations.

With the situations that Wilson has been placed in, areas that he may not have been trusted to be in during previous seasons, and the success he has had, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t continue to provide the same dominant play throughout the second half of the season.

"To watch the way he’s played all year, he’s been terrific for us," said Laviolette. "I know the points are coming now, but he’s played really well. He’s been a strong player all year. With the points comes confidence and that can contribute even more to your play on the ice."

Currently in the final season of a three-year contract signed during the summer of 2012, Wilson could be due for a bump in pay. Set to be a restricted free agent, Nashville will retain his rights and get the first crack at re-signing him before other teams begin to poke around at the possibilities of a potential offer sheet. There is no question that the Predators will need great efforts from players like Wilson in the future if they hope to continue their success.

Regardless of where Nashville finishes at the end of the season, the question of whether or not Wilson is going to break out can finally be put to rest.