Koletrane Wilson doesn’t just have the best name on the Calgary Flames’ depth chart. He entered the rookie camp with a memorable performance—you couldn’t help but notice Wilson during both of the Flames’ rookie games this past week, mostly because of his booming hits and solid defensive play. The Win Column had a discussion with Wilson soon after he signed his AHL contract with the Stockton Heat.
With an impressive rookie camp behind him, Wilson is looking to carry his momentum to main camp this week. Though he is a bit of an older prospect, that hasn’t mattered much so far.
All about Koletrane
Wilson has always been a late bloomer. While he did get his feet into skates at the ripe age of three, it took him two seasons after being drafted before he suited up in the WHL for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. “I didn’t want to do the same things as my brother (Klarc),” he said with a smile. Klarc Wilson had a storied career in the WHL, finishing his final season with 60 points in 72 games for the Prince George Cougars.
Koletrane wanted to go a different route, hoping to maintain his NCAA eligibility by playing in the AJHL for the Sherwood Park Crusaders. But at the age of 17, he had an “epiphany moment” and joined the Hurricanes for the remainder of his junior career.
Due to the later start, it took him some time to adapt to the very competitive league, but his determination and hard work helped the defenceman put up 33 points in 62 games in his final season.
Following that, he signed last season with the Stockton Heat, but only managed to get into five games in his time. Wilson finished the season with the Kansas City Mavericks in the ECHL, where he put up four assists in 18 games as a rookie.
Making the jump to pro hockey was a huge step for the hard-nosed defensive defenceman. Talking about his first year, Wilson mentioned his risk-averse approach: “As a young guy, I didn’t want to make mistakes especially last year when I was in and out of the lineup, you don’t want to take those risks that’ll get you taken out of the lineup”.
However, practicing with the club in Stockton was huge for his development. Being able to spend time in the same rink as players like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk is something many young players look up to, and having experienced coached like new Heat Bench Boss Mitch Love giving feedback can only help his game, but Wilson credits one guy in particular for really helping him develop his game: Former Heat Captain Alex Petrovic.
“Petrovic is from my hometown so when the year was done he texted me and said he was taking me under his wing,” said Wilson—and what a difference it made for the defender. While he did not get into many games last season, working directly with an experienced veteran made a huge difference in his game.
Even through the summer the two worked closely together to help develop Wilson’s game even more strongly. While he excels defensively, Wilson believes he has even more to give. “I feel like I have an untapped offensive side to my game … and worked with Petro (Petrovic) to help develop it this summer.”
This came out in the first rookie game for the Flames this season where Wilson was all over the ice, and gave his linemates a huge burst of energy when he was on the ice. Although he did take a couple of penalties—which is an area of improvement for him—his play bumped him up from the seventh defenceman to be on the third pairing.
Wilson is an eye-catching player. He plays an old-school type game and loves to throw his body around. His junior PIM numbers might make you think he’s an enforcer type, that’s not the type of game Wilson likes to play. He isn’t afraid to use his size to his advantage, but his goal every shift is to be responsible, make smart plays, and be a positive contributor on both ends.
What’s next for Wilson?
“Yeah, I mean, this year like I said, this summer has been huge for me. Really, probably my best summer I’ve ever had. So the plan is I’m going to Calgary this camp, and my original goal is to make the Flames. That’s honestly where I’m starting at until someone tells me differently, right?
“I’m going in, I think I’m in the best physical shape, I think my skills are the best where they are at, stuff like that. And I’m just confident in myself. I want to make the Flames and that’s kind of where I’m starting at. Whatever happens happens, and obviously you know, if not the Flames then Stockton. And if I’m in Stockton I would like an ‘every night’ guy—contributing, you know—playing those big minutes kind of like I did in Lethbridge and stuff like that.
And just take that step forward from last year. I got a good foundation last year in pro hockey, and now being a late bloomer you kinda of gotta keep going, so that’s the plan—is to keep going.”
There are a lot of players vying for spots in Calgary, and perhaps even more vying for spots in Stockton with the Heat, but Wilson is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. His game is not the prototypical modern-day blueliner, who skates with the puck and plays almost a fourth forward type of role, but rather he is a very old-school blueliner, the type of player who can be relied on to play tough minutes and make the night harder for other teams’ top players. Modelling his game off of Dustin Byfuglien, Wilson likes getting under other guys’ skin and make the the game grittier.
The model of a Sutter-esque defenceman that’s for sure. Best of luck to Wilson as the season gets underway.