Photo credit: Garrett James Photography
As a youngster growing up in Duncan, B.C., Cowichan Valley Capitals forward Luc Wilson had a slight advantage over the rest of his hockey-playing colleagues. His father Brant worked at the local arena and would stay late after work to use the ice to work on skills with his son.
“I was on skates when I was two years old,” said Luc. “He’s one of the most hockey-driven men I’ve ever met. He played quite a bit himself and was actually pretty good. His passion is hockey and he just kind of got his kids involved in it right away and we haven’t looked back since.
“For about five years, I was on the ice every day with him after work. Credit to him for that because I think that really molded me into the player I am today.”
With that upbringing, it wasn’t long before Luc was playing hockey for the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association and that’s where he met the first of many coaches that would have a lasting impact on his career.
“Brett Hopwo was my coach from the first day I ever played organized hockey all the way up until my second year of Peewee,” said Wilson. “I give so much credit to him for what I’ve accomplished so far. He was a huge help all those years.”
After a few years in the minor-hockey system, Wilson was off to Shawnigan Lake prep school for his second year of Bantam. Although he was only there for one year, Wilson gained a lot of knowledge and experience and built lasting relationships.
“Being able to go there, you have the best teachers,” he said. “You have some classes with 10 students but three teachers. Just being able to learn that side of life really helped me a lot.
“I met a lot of great people and it was also my first chance to travel with a hockey team. I think it was one of those things that I’ll look back and I’ll have forever. I still have some of my best friends to this day from that school.”
The following year, Wilson ended up changing paths when he joined the North Island Silvertips of the BC Major Midget League which he also used as a springboard to his next step in hockey.
“With the Slivertips, we were on the ice every single day,” said Wilson. “Sometimes twice a day with workouts. That’s helped me focus on improving myself everyday.
“Playing there also gave me the chance to make my junior debut. I got seven games playing with the Nanaimo Buccaneers (Junior B) and I also got the chance to play in six playoff games as an affiliate. That was another step in the whole process.”
Wilson joined the Buccaneers full time the next season and exceled offensively, putting up 38 points in 41 games.
He credits his Junior B experience as the perfect precursor to making the jump to Junior A, rather than going straight there from Major Midget.
“I just remember learning so much that year and having so many laughs with the team,” said Wilson. “Just being able to play with some of those 20-year-olds and produce was one of the main things that helped get me to where I am today.”
After getting into seven games as an affiliate during his season with the Bucs, it was time for Wilson to make his full-time Junior A debut in 2018-19 with his hometown team – the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“Just to be able to come back and live at home is a blessing,” he said. “I have twin brothers who are both 15-years-old, so to be able to come back home and live with them and see them grow up has been amazing. The fact that I have so many family members at every game is really motivating as well. It’s just nice to see our community rally around the team.”
Wilson put up 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in his rookie season, which put him in the top-10 in team scoring, but he admits there was an adjustment period for him making the jump to the BCHL.
“I think it took time,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a big difference in the game. I had a lot to adjust to. I thought coach [Mike Vandekamp] helped a lot. He’s been unbelievable for my development so far. Last year, I thought it was an okay start, but I wasn’t 100 per cent pleased with the year I had. I expect a lot out of myself. I think coming into this year, I knew what I had to work on in the summer and I was able to do that.
This year has been a different story for Wilson from a personal and a team perspective.
The 18-year-old is enjoying a breakout season offensively and currently sits in fifth in league scoring with 40 points through 36 games. He credits an increased role and the help of his teammates as the main reasons for his spike in production.
“I think it has a lot to do with opportunity,” he said. “Last year, there were points that I played on the power play here and there and got my chance, but this year I’m in the spot I want to be.
“My linemate Matthew Crasa and I have also created really good chemistry so far this year. To be honest, I credit a lot of my success to him.”
As far as team success goes, the Capitals are one of the most improved teams in the league compared to last year. Although they finished 16th of 17 teams in 2018-19, they made the playoffs and even pulled off a shocking upset when they beat the Interior Division champion Penticton Vees in the first round. With a good number of players returning this year, they’ve used that experience as a springboard to this year’s success.
“The returning group that we have is a very close group,” said Wilson. “We all know what has to be done. I think we know in our room that this year could be really special. Last year, I think we proved that it doesn’t matter where you end up in the playoffs and what seed you go in as. It’s a different game and a whole new season pretty much.”
The last few weeks have been a wild ride for Wilson.
First off, he announced his commitment to Minnesota State University, who is currently has a 15-2-1 overall record and is the second-ranked team in the NCAA.
“To be able to commit there to such an amazing program is truly a blessing,” he said. “It just goes to show that even though last year I struggled, it doesn’t take a heck of a lot for things to get better. It’s just putting in work in the offseason and getting to the gym and working on what you need to. If you’re driven and you really want it, then good things will happen. I’m really excited to go get down there and check it all out.”
On top of securing his NCAA future, Wilson was also just named to Team West for the CJHL Prospects Game in January. The game takes place in Hamilton, Ont. and with his dad’s family from nearby Mississauga, he should have plenty of support that night.
With recent NHL draft picks having participated in the Prospects Game like Alex Newhook, Layton Ahac and Harrison Blaisdell, it’s hard not to imagine Wilson will get a look from NHL teams as well.
“Leading up to this year, the draft wasn’t really in my head,” he said. “But with what’s been going on with my commitment and now this, all my hard work has been coming to fruition. It would be a dream come true if I was to get drafted this offseason. I do have it in the back of my mind a little bit, but what’s important right now is winning games with this team and finishing hard before the break.”