Rick Wilson got his first chance to play in the NHL in 1973 at the age of 23 after spending a couple of years with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the American Hockey League. In a 70-game season with the Voyageurs, Wilson proved he was a steady influence on defense and was not afraid to take a penalty to make his point known, as evidenced by his 163 minutes spent in the box. Wilson managed to contribute four goals and eleven assists. It was this tenacious play which drew the attention of the Montreal Canadiens, who called him up mid-way through the 1973-74 season.
The coaching staff of the Canadiens made it clear what they expected out of Wilson--to keep opposing forwards away from in front of the Montreal crease. The club had an abundance of scoring with such stars as Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, and Jacques Lemaire, so turning in a solid game-in game-out defensive effort was Wilson's mandate.
In 21 games with the Habs, Wilson had two assists and had just six penalty minutes. With future Hall of Famers Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, and Larry Robinson getting a bulk of the ice-time, Wilson always made certain to be ready on the few occasions he was called upon.
Wilson moved on to the St. Louis Blues, where he played two full seasons. In the first year he suited up for 76 games, scoring two goals and five assists with 83 penalty minutes. He appeared in 65 games in 1975-76, scoring a goal and six assists with 20 minutes in penalties. Wilson's most productive NHL season turned out to be his last, when he spent the 1976-77 season in the Motor City, scoring three goals and 13 assists. He played one more year of professional hockey, with the Philadelphia Firebirds of the AHL where he had four goals and 28 assists.