Earlier this week, goaltender Ryan Wilson #1 (L, 6’2″, 180, Springfield Jr. Blues, 06/20/2000) committed to Army.
A Connecticut native, Wilson is in his first season with the Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL) after an outstanding prep career at the Northwood School and Proctor Academy. In 15 games this season, Wilson is sporting a 2.84 GAA and a .905 save percentage. In 54 games last season for Northwood, Wilson posted a .926 save percentage and he had the best save percentage and goals-against average in the USPHL 18U division.
NZ: When did you first start playing hockey? And when did goalie first come into your life?
Wilson: “I was probably six or seven years old. I really wanted to play, we would go to AHL games when I was a kid in Bridgeport, so I started playing and then one game our goalie got hurt I think? I can’t really remember, but we needed a goalie and I stepped into the game and just fell in love with it. Ever since then, it was something I wanted to stick with.”
“Goalie just felt natural to me. I was probably eight or nine before I switched to it full time, but from the first time I played goalie it just felt so right, honestly.”
NZ: When you were going through the recruiting process, what was it about Army that made it stand out for you?
Wilson: “The second I got on campus I was blown away because it’s a beautiful campus. It’s great. And then from there, I was talking with the guys on the team, and then my parents and everyone about it, and I got really excited.
“I think one of the biggest things for me was the connections you have after you’re done. You develop incredible leadership skills at Army and you are part of that family so there are many connections and opportunities once you graduate. Whether I am able to play pro or not, my future is in really good shape when I graduate because Army gives you so many opportunities.
“Also, I really liked the coaching staff. They’re great people and very easy to talk to. They made the decision really easy because I could totally see myself playing for them.”
NZ: Does your family have a military background?
Wilson: “My grandfather was in the Navy. A couple of my dad’s very close friends served in the Marines, so I talked to them and they were loving it.”
NZ: Moving on from prep hockey to junior hockey this year, what have been some of the biggest adjustments for you?
Wilson: “In juniors, you have a lot more free time. With boarding school, our schedule was a lot more structured. All-day we’re in school, then we have practice and dinner and study hall, so you don’t have a lot of free time. But in juniors, you have to manage your time a lot better. You can’t just go home and lay around all day. I usually try to get out of practice and then maybe get a workout in. The important part is to keep doing things that will make you better.”
NZ: What would you say is the biggest strength of your game?
Wilson: “I don’t think I overreact much. I am pretty calm and I want to control my rebounds. I like to challenge the shooter and come out pretty far. But I think the most important thing is to remain calm. I try to be a simple player and I think being calm just calms everyone around you.”
NZ: What are some things you’re looking to improve on this year?
Wilson: “I’m working on my flexibility every day. This year I’m trying to work on my reaction time. Players at this level can shoot the puck quicker and harder and I know that will be even another level in college. Players can put the puck anywhere now. So you have to be ready. You might see a guy coming down the sideboards and then the puck gets shot up at your shoulder. Shooters really can put it anywhere.”
NZ: With so many teams in a close range, did you follow college hockey as a kid in Connecticut?
Wilson: “Of course. There was never a year that we didn’t go to a couple of games. I’ve always paid attention to it and thought it would be cool to be out there one day. I’m very excited.”
NZ: You talked earlier about the more free time in juniors. Now that you’re preparing for college hockey, do you feel like that’s an advantage for your development? There’s the potential for you to focus so much on hockey this year, right?
Wilson: “It’s a big advantage if you take advantage of it. Some of the guys are still in school or taking online classes, so it’s not like we have no schooling, but it’s a lot less than boarding school. But it’s only beneficial if you use it to your advantage. That’s important for me this year, to really focus on my game and be in the best spot I can be in when I get to college.”