Holding a hot hand

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- A year after Jonathan Toews set the World Junior Hockey Championship on fire, who'd have predicted another Winnipegger would do the same?

Certainly not Colin Wilson, the dual citizen playing for Team USA.

Calling himself "an American who grew up in Winnipeg," Wilson appears to have grown up before our very eyes here, leading the tournament with six goals through four games.

"It was surreal just to make the team. And I've been getting some goals," an almost embarrassed Wilson was saying yesterday. "It's pretty wild. It's a pretty cool accomplishment at the moment. Honestly, I'm just getting to the net, that's all I'm doing."

It's what he does when he gets there that has NHL scouts scribbling furiously in their notebooks.

One of the younger players here -- he turned 18 barely two months ago -- Wilson hasn't even been drafted, yet.

Already projected to be a first-rounder next summer, his stock just keeps inflating.

So far, his ego hasn't.

"I understand that," Wilson said of the attention he's drawing. "But I've been concentrating on just winning games, and if I score a couple goals that's just a bonus. It's nice that I have all those goals, but I'm more happy that we're 4-0."

Wilson's story goes like this: he was born near New York, when his dad, former NHLer Carey Wilson, played for the Rangers.

By age four he was living in Winnipeg, learning to skate on the backyard rink, then playing minor hockey in Ft. Garry and St. Vital and attending Vincent Massey Collegiate.

After a year of midget with the AAA Monarchs, the U.S. development program came calling, and the offer to play full-time with a national team was too good to turn down.

Particularly when he always considered himself an American, anyway.

And though he's already suited up for the States in world under-17 and under-18 events, pulling on the Stars and Stripes in this tournament has brought all his old friends and family members out of the woodwork.

SUPPORT

"I'm always getting messages," Wilson said. "People saying congratulations and keep it up. It's real nice support. They always add in, 'Canada's gonna beat you.' It bugs me a little bit. But we'll just wait to play 'em.

"Canada would be a nice team to play, I'm not going to lie. Everybody would be watching back home. It's a big rivalry."

That'll happen in the semi-final, if Canada defeats Finland today.

The proudest guy in the rink for that one would undoubtedly be Wilson's dad, who's always been there, on the backyard rinks and at the arenas, coaxing his son along.

The thing is, Carey Wilson always told his boy he needed to concentrate on playing better defensively.

"Growing up, all I wanted to do was play offence," the kid recalled. "He told me I've gotta start hitting, I've gotta start playing defence or I'm not gonna play. I still remember penalty killing when I was 12 years old. I had no idea what I was doing. He was yelling at me, telling me to box the guy out.

"Car rides home after bad games were usually my nightmare."

The nightmare's long over, replaced by a dream week in the Czech Republic, mom and dad here to witness it.

And wouldn't you know it, Wilson's back doing what he loved most as a kid: scoring goals.

"That's pretty nice," Wilson said. "We'll see how that turns out."

I think we already have.


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