Wade Allison had made this hit a thousand times before.
The Western Michigan forward, a second-round pick of the Flyers in 2016, watched the St. Cloud State defenseman cycle down from the blue line to the half-wall. He positioned himself to cut off the play and pinned the opponent into the boards.
“Right away, I felt something in my knee pop, and something popped in my shoulder, as well,” recalled Allison. “I knew right away something wasn’t right [when] my leg just quit working on me.”
This time, the hit was not like the other thousand.
This time, the hit tore an ACL and separated a shoulder, and ended his college season on Jan. 13 — two months earlier than planned.
Allison, who entered that Saturday afternoon game as the nation’s sixth-leading scorer (15 goals and 15 assists in 21 games), saw in that instant his shot at the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player nixed and his projected timeline for turning pro postponed.
But in the five-plus months since, Allison has learned valuable lessons from his recovery process and situated himself to be back at full health for the start of the 2018-19 collegiate season. He wasn’t able to compete at the just-completed Flyers development camp — meaning that fellow forward prospects Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien attracted all the attention, while Allison did not — but he said he isn’t far away from returning to the ice.
“Mentally, it’s been really tough, because it’s like every moment of my life for the past five months has been spent toward catering to this thing,” he said. “That definitely takes a lot out of you, but it all depends on how you look at it — you can feel sorry for yourself or whatever, but if you just see it as an obstacle, you’re going to overcome.”
At camp, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound right winger said he was able to absorb information on nutrition, weightlifting and other important off-ice subjects without being distracted by the intense day-to-day on-ice regimen.
He said he expects to be able to resume all activities within “the next month or two,” and his first priority will be regaining the leg strength he lost during the recovery process. But Allison will be back at school, rather than in Philadelphia, during the Flyers’ main training camp in September.
After all, it’s at Western Michigan’s Lawson Ice Arena where Allison transformed from a second-day draft selection — barely on scouts’ radars at all until the final months preceding that 2016 draft — to the blue-chip prospect he is today.
Under the tutelage of former Kings and Blues coach Andy Murray, Allison has learned how to better “structure his hockey life” and has gone from a high schooler struggling to meet college-admission requirements to a successful student.
Allison’s raw hockey talent has emerged more naturally and unmistakably. Once he signs his entry-level contract— an event once thought to be likely this summer but now delayed by his injury until presumably 2019 — Murray said he has little doubt Allison can quickly break through the Flyers’ crowded prospect pool.
“We’ve produced a lot of NHL players, and he’s an elite-level talent,” said Murray. “I believe he’ll slide right into the Flyers’ lineup.”