Vol. LXIII, No. 32
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
NEW DEVELOPMENT: Brett Wilson heads up the ice during his career with the Princeton University mens hockey team. Last month, the recently graduated Wilson got to showcase his skills as he skated in the Chicago Blackhawks development camp.
For at least one week last month, Brett Wilson had the chance to live the dream.
The former Princeton University mens hockey star stepped into the same Chicago Blackhawks locker room where young NHL stars such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews dress for game action.
Wilson slipped on a Blackhawks jersey with the logo worn by the likes of Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito. It was all part of Wilsons opportunity to skate at the teams NHL development camp in Chicago.
It was definitely a big moment for me, said Wilson. Being at my first professional camp was a big step. Youre a bit in awe when you go into the arena and the dressing rooms, but all of the guys there were really good and everyone on the coaching staff made you feel comfortable.
The camp gives players like Wilson the chance to skate with other college stars as well as the organizations draft picks. The 60, 190-pound forward was hoping for the chance to be noticed by a professional organization as he was finishing up his final season with the Tigers.
When Wilson and the Tigers competed in the postseason this past winter, the Blackhawks took notice.
One of their scouts saw us play in the NCAA tournament, said Wilson, who ended his Princeton career with 106 points on 46 goals and 60 assists.
He liked what he saw and wanted to give me a shot to come out and skate with some of their younger players. My agent said there was Chicago and a couple of other teams interested, so we just thought this would be the best fit for me.
Three months after the Tigers season came to an end with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA tournament, Wilson was off to Chicago to showcase his skills.
There were understandable jitters on the first day of the camp, but Wilson scored in the second period in his first scrimmage and settled in nicely the rest of the week.
It was kind of just business as usual once you got on the ice, said Wilson. It was a bit strange on the first day, but then I felt really comfortable.
It is easy to understand how Wilson gained the attention of the Blackhawks. During his four years at Princeton, the Calgary, Alberta native became one of the top players in ECAC Hockey, emerging as a clutch sniper.
Wilson scored 20 power play goals in his Princeton years and ended his career by scoring two goals in the loss to Minnesota-Duluth. He also recorded a goal and an assist in the Tigers win over Union in the decisive third game of the ECACH quarterfinals this past winter.
Players like Wilson have helped turn the Princeton mens hockey program into a nationally-ranked power after years at the bottom of the ECAC.
Wilson believes the success of the program is what gave him the opportunity to attend a professional camp.
The scouts want to come out and see the top teams play, said Wilson. Princeton definitely helped me get to where I am. With Coach [Guy] Gadowsky growing the program, we get a little more exposure now. People know we can play a little hockey, so they come out to watch us.
After spending four years battling ECACH rivals, Wilson suddenly found himself lining up with some of his former opponents in Chicago.
There were a few Yale guys, said Wilson. There were also two guys from St. Lawrence. It was kind of nice to see that kind of representation from our league.
It was also an opportunity for Wilson to get to know some of the players he had skated against in college.
Its different after you get to know them a little bit, said Wilson. You dont know what to say to these guys after playing against them, but they were really good guys.
Like most young hockey players, Wilson has watched his share of hockey on TV. He has always had great admiration for the tradition of NHL franchises.
The Blackhawks were one of the original six NHL teams, so Wilson felt humbled to be wearing a jersey that symbolized one of the great traditions of hockey.
It was definitely a proud moment to be in the organization even if it was just for a week, added Wilson.
It was really cool just sitting in that locker room. Just to skate around in a Blackhawks jersey was really something. You grow up watching that on TV, so its a surprise the first time you skate with it.
The next step for Wilson will most likely be the hardest as he will be forced to play the waiting game.
Wilson is hoping to get a call back from the Blackhawks and have the opportunity to work his way through their minor league system. It would open the door for a chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL.
Its going to be a wait-and-see situation now, explained Wilson. Its kind of a weird feeling for the first time not knowing where I might be playing next year.
No matter what happens, Wilson will always be grateful for the week in Chicago.
There is so much history and tradition with that organization, said Wilson. It was a cool team to be a part of, even for a short time. It will be interesting to see what happens going forward.
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