Scott Wilson wasn't accustomed to so much time in the offseason. The forward, who was part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was usually spending at least some time in the playoffs.
But when his new team, the Buffalo Sabres, finished last in the National Hockey League last season, well, Wilson finally had time to work on something critical to his game.
The 5-foot-11 Wilson said he gained about 15 pounds over the summer and the additional weight is making a difference this preseason as he works to make the Sabres roster out of training camp.
While Wilson is listed at 183 pounds, he was at just 173 four years ago when he was playing for UMass-Lowell. And the way he talked in the dressing room Wednesday morning after the Sabres pregame skate in KeyBank Center, he's closer to 190 right now.
And that happened thanks to a change in his nutrition.
"Just eating. I’ve never been a huge eating guy, but I kind of took advantage of it this summer with having a longer summer than I normally have with some other years," Wilson said. "Really just nutrition. That’s the only thing. I did the same training. Maybe a little more running and biking this summer, but just the nutrition aspect of it."
Wilson has already noticed a difference in his game during the preseason. He has one assist in two games heading into Wednesday night's tilt in Pittsburgh.
"I feel a lot better," Wilson said. "I talked to a lot of people. I used to cramp and kind of be out of gas and feel like I had nothing left. I think just with the weight, it feels like I can go longer and I have a little bit left in the tank. Last year, I feel like I really got tired sometimes. This year, I just feel like I have a little more left to give.
"I think being a pro nowadays, it’s not like the old days where you came into camp to get into shape. It’s 365 now," the 26-year-old Wilson said. "It’s gotten pretty intense with regards to training and all the little things that are done by the staff here that no one really knows. At my age, I think you’ve got to find your right weight and keep it there. I can’t be fluctuating too much but I thought this was a good time to try and put on some weight and see how I felt on the ice."
Being in shape and ready to go has been the theme for the Sabres this training camp. Players have talked about the desire of coach Phil Housley and General Manager Jason Botterill to have the best conditioned team on the ice. And while Housley didn't specifically discuss Wilson's welcomed weight gain, he has been impressed with the forward during camp.
"I just like the way he plays the game," Housley said. "He’s hard on the forecheck. He’s physical. He brings that presence in the locker room of winning Cups and he’s able to share that information. Now he’s in a good place as far as the way he’s playing the game. He’s playing with speed. He’s getting some opportunities. He’s getting some looks. Just really like his camp up to this date."
Wilson brings Stanley Cup-winning experience to the Sabres' locker room. He played half of the 2015-16 season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL, scoring 22 goals to earn an NHL call-up. He remained with Pittsburgh and, although a lower body injury in March cut his season short, the Penguins gave him a Stanley Cup ring. He spent the 2016-17 season with the Penguins, earning his second ring.
Wilson was traded to Detroit at the start of last season, and then to Buffalo in December. He had six goals and eight assists in 49 games for the Sabres.
Heading into Wednesday's preseason game against his former team, Wilson remembers what it was like when he was breaking into the league and getting his first taste against a full NHL lineup in a preseason meeting. So he had some encouragement for Buffalo's younger players.
"With (Pittsburgh's) lineup (Wednesday), it's a chance for those guys to prove to management they can play in the league and play against the top guys in the world," Wilson said. "I know my first game against a full lineup, I was super excited to challenge the best. I think our young guys will do a good job.
"Obviously, we don’t have our full squad in there but it’s nice to play a full team and kind of get your timing back because playing a full team it’s a little faster pace, more like the regular season itself. It’s good for older guys to play against a full squad for sure."
Story topics: Scott Wilson