Defenseman Jacob Wilson is an unsung hero for ASU men's hockey

Wilson, a two-way defenseman, is critical to the team's success with defensive and offensive contributions

It’s no secret that defense has been the strength of ASU men's hockey. From a penalty kill with an 82 percent success rate, which is ranked 22nd overall in Division I hockey, to the defensemen producing over 35 percent of the team’s overall points, defense for ASU hockey has proven to be a collaborative effort. 

However, there have been standout individuals at the helm of the team’s defense who do not always receive credit.

Freshman defenseman Jacob Wilson is one of those players. 

“He doesn’t always get all the notoriety because when he has a great game, you might not notice him a ton,” assistant coach and defensive coordinator Mike Field said. “That’s why he’s so good, because he gets the puck, moves it and then focuses on making sure he has a good gap and good sticks. (These are) all kinds of the little things that as a coach, you see and you love, but maybe the fans ... don’t see the big highlight reel, spinorama or whatever else, which is fine by me.”

That kind of attention doesn't concern Wilson as he knows what he needs to bring to the team day in and day out. 

“Just keeping it simple and taking care of my part and my role on the team (is) ... all you really can do,” Wilson said. 

Wilson’s ability to simplify and compartmentalize his duties has not only translated into him playing integral roles on the team’s defense and penalty kill, but also on the score sheet.

“Having him start to feel more and more comfortable, especially in the second half of the year, has been great for us as a staff – to feel like we can put him out there and good things are going to happen,” Field said. 

Wilson has four assists in the last three games, not including the assist he earned on last weekend’s unofficial overtime-winning goal against Quinnipiac. 

Additionally, the freshman is sixth overall in scoring on the team and is second amongst defenseman with 10 points (one goal and nine assists).

“He’s a really good two-way defenseman," Field said. "Probably his biggest attribute is how hard he competes. He’s a smart player, he has good skill ... but his competitiveness – he’s an absolute warrior on both ends of the ice. That’s why he’s so effective for us.”

Wilson’s skills as defenseman span a wide range beyond what he would usually be given recognition for. 

“Willy is definitely a really good skater ... he doesn’t need that real, super sharp edge," coordinator of equipment operations Jon Laughner said. "He goes the dullest on the team actually, and he gives a really nice glide, and we generally see that with the better skaters. The guys that are really good with their edgework really don’t need that super sharp edge to hold their glide.”

More importantly, Wilson has skills that make him an invaluable addition to his teammates. 

“He instills a level of confidence in our guys ... he’s used to being in that leadership role and he came here to eventually become a leader and I think he will be,” head coach Greg Powers said. “He’s a team guy first. Again, that’s why he was a captain in juniors, and that’s why he’s probably a future captain here down the road when he’s an upperclassman. He’s a great kid.”

In his three seasons in the United States Hockey League, Wilson played for the Sioux City Musketeers. In his second year, he was made an alternate captain, and then became captain the following season. 

“Playing that last year in Sioux City really helped," Wilson said. "We had a lot of success and I had a really good connection with my coach, and he helped me lead by example and lead the team.” 

In his captaincy, the Musketeers won the Anderson Cup for being the regular season USHL champions and went on to the Clark Cup Finals.  

“Last season helped me mature me a lot, especially in the postseason," Wilson said. "During the playoffs, you can’t be thinking about winning it all or even winning the series. Our mindset was to keep our heads down and win one game at a time, and by the time you look up, you’re almost to your goal. What I learned is that you cannot take any game for granted.”

Now, Wilson brings this mindset to every ASU game in order to lead another team to success. 

“This is what we live for, that grind and the ups and downs,” Wilson said. “When we get a little taste of success, that just makes us want it even more, so it’s always rewarding.”


Reach the reporter at pburnell@asu.edu or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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