Family support helps Wilson rise up the ranks

Duncan-born forward leading Caps, getting recognition

It has been an eventful couple of weeks for Luciano Wilson — the term “life-changing” would not be hyperbolic — but even with everything going on, he wants to talk about his family.

The 18-year-old, born and raised in Duncan and now in his second year with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, emphasizes how much his parents, Brant and Giovanna, and 15-year-old twin brothers, Anthony and Brendon, have meant to his journey to the junior A hockey ranks and beyond.

“To see how hard my mom works for me and the twins, and for all of this to come for me, it’s not just me being rewarded for this,” says Wilson, who calls his mom “the hardest-working woman in the world.” “It really goes to show the mother she is.”

“I wouldn’t be here without the support of my brothers,” he adds. “And my dad has been great. He’s always trying to teach me and help me out.”

Including his parents and brothers, Wilson estimates he probably has 20 or 30 family members at some games.

Including his parents and brothers, Wilson estimates he probably has 20 or 30 family members at some games.

Including his parents and brothers, Wilson estimates he probably has 20 or 30 family members at some games.

He graduated from high school last spring and living at home has allowed him to focus on hockey.

“I did billeting for two years in Nanaimo [with the major midget North Island Silvertips and junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers], and I had two amazing families,” he says. “It’s comfortable sleeping in your own bed at night, to have your family members cheering you on. It’s surreal. Not many kids get to do it. It’s a really nice feeling.”

Earlier this month, Wilson committed to play at Minnesota State University once his junior career is finished. A top NCAA Div. 1 team for the last few years, the Minnesota State Mavericks were ranked second behind North Dakota in the Dec. 15 USCHO.com rankings, and had been first the week before.

Wilson caught the eyes of a few NCAA scouts at the B.C. Hockey League Showcase in Chilliwack in October, and gradually developed a relationship with an assistant coach at Minnesota State, who convinced him to sign there.

“It’s an opportunity to play hockey for four more years and get four years of school paid for,” Wilson says. “It gets me one step closer to my dream of being in the NHL.”

Wilson is the 10th member of this year’s Capitals team to commit to a Div. 1 school, something head coach Mike Vandekamp is proud of.

“This is what we’re here for,” he says. “We want to put a good product on the ice, something for the fans to be proud of, and to have success as a team. But we also want to advance players. We’ve got a number on the team this year, and Luc is the latest to attain that goal.

“He’s done well. He has improved a lot. This is the fun part of the game for us as coaches.”

Wilson has two more years of junior eligibility after this one, and Vandekamp expects him to stick around for at least one more, if not both, before he heads to college.

“He’s got a lot of work to do: on the ice, physically off the ice, and academically. It’s a door that’s open, and he’ll have to put in a lot of work before he gets there. This is just step one of his future on and off the ice.”

Since committing to Minnesota State, Wilson has also been announced as one of eight BCHL players who will skate for Team West at the CJHL Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ont., on Jan. 10. The annual contest showcases the top NHL draft-eligible junior A prospects in the country.

With grandparents and other family members living in southern Ontario, Wilson will have plenty of family at that game, as well, and he’s hoping his parents can make the trip, too.

“To be able to play in Hamilton is special to me,” he says. “Family is a big thing for me. That’s why I put all the effort in.”

Wilson is leading the Caps in points with 40 on 13 goals and 27 assists through 36 games so far this season, and went into last weekend fifth in BCHL scoring. He long ago eclipsed his totals of 10 goals, 12 assists and 22 points in 48 games from his rookie year.

Even though he put in a lot of work over the summer, Wilson didn’t envision himself leading the team offensively this year.

“To be honest, coming into it, I’d have to say no. But I’m such a driven kid, I’m competitive. I had a really good off-season. To see myself shining through is rewarding. To be able to stay top five, the work ahead of me is huge.”

Wilson doesn’t take all the credit for his success, acknowledging the help he’s received from the coaching staff and his teammates, in particular his linemates, Matt Crasa and Brady Lamb.

“He’s my age, and it seems to be we share a brain on the ice,” Wilson says of Crasa. “I’ve been able to create some chemistry with that guy. Knowing I can give the puck to him and know that it will be in the back of the net half the time is rewarding.”

“We play hard, we skate fast, we can make plays,” he said. I think this year we’ll go far.

“I think we’ve got a really good chance. I think coach can lead us in a good way. He’s been coaching at this level for 25 years. He definitely knows what he’s doing.”

Only one player came back from the 2017-18 team, but a core of seven, including Wilson, returned from last year’s squad, and that consistency has made a difference.

“I think last year was a bit of not knowing what to expect,” Wilson says. “It was a brand new team, a brand new coach, that kind of stuff.”

“This is my second year of junior hockey. I might have one more left. I might have two more left. It’s a special group this year that I think can win.”

Something else special happened to Wilson recently, and it involved a family, although this time it wasn’t his own.

After the Caps’ 5-0 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Dec. 8 — the same day he committed to Minnesota State — Wilson was signing autographs when he ran into a couple of brothers he met at the Skate with the Caps a week before.

“They’re two awesome kids,” Wilson says of the Chanasyk brothers, eight-year-old Carter and five-year-old Travis. “They have big energy. And being a local kid, they kind of gravitate towards me.”

The brothers bought Wilson a candy bag, then shared the news that they would be going to the game between the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena two days later. Wilson told the brothers that going to a Leafs game was his dream.

“I was born into it,” Wilson says of his Leafs fanhood, which he inherited from his dad.

Lo and behold, the boys’ mom, Laura, contacted Wilson through social media that night and offered him their extra ticket to the game. Wilson got permission from Vandekamp and made his way to Vancouver for the Tuesday game. He met the Chanasyks, including dad Jason, at their hotel, surprising the kids, who didn’t know he was coming, and they all had the night of their lives.

“The smiles on their faces didn’t come off and same with me.”

It helped Wilson, who was honoured with the team’s Community Involvement Award last year, realize what he and his teammates mean to the Cowichan Valley.

“It wasn’t long ago I was looking up to my idols, growing up watching the Caps play in the same corner where my dad stands now. It’s something I’ll cherish forever.”

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