When Jacob Wilson announced his intention to return for a fifth season at Arizona State, forwards across college hockey groaned in exasperation.
Though soft-spoken outside the rink, Wilson has become one of the NCAA’s most feared players thanks to his bone-crushing open-ice hits. While opposing teams thought they had seen the last of him, the Sun Devils’ co-captain decided to delay his professional career in hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament one last time.
His leadership will be of paramount importance this season, as ASU’s defense corps will receive a healthy infusion of youth from incoming freshmen Ethan Szmagaj and Ty Murchison.
There are few players in the NCAA who could claim to be a better role model for young blue liners than Wilson. His distinct blend of in-your-face physicality, high compete level and smooth skating makes him an effective shutdown defenseman who can occasionally contribute at the offensive end as well, and he has established himself as one of the more reliable players on the team.
During ASU’s ill-fated 2020-21 campaign, Wilson enjoyed a remarkably solid season compared to the team’s other defensemen. He was one of just two players on the roster to finish with a positive +/-, leading the team with a +4 rating despite playing more minutes per game than any other Sun Devil. Though not known for his point-producing abilities, he was second amongst ASU defensemen in that category and would likely have matched his scoring total from the prior season had he played every game.
Wilson is a lock to retain his spot as the team’s top blue liner once again this coming season, and like the rest of the team, should be able to improve on his performance from last year. At 24 years old, he is as seasoned as a college hockey player can possibly get, and his leadership will be key in solidifying the future of ASU’s defense.
This season might be Wilson’s last as a member of the maroon-and-gold, but his thunderous body checks will live on in the memory of Sun Devil fans for years to come, and he just might add a few more to his highlight reel before it is all said and done.