Nanaimo’s Matthew Wood an intriguing prospect for the Canucks at 11th overall
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3 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players who could be available to the Vancouver Canucks at 11th overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
We’ve previously broken down right-shot defenceman Axel Sandin Pellikka of the Skelleftea AIK in the SHL, and in today’s second segment, we’re talking about the Nanaimo-grown forward — notice we didn’t say centre — Matthew Wood, on the journey to finding the Canucks’ lucky number 11.
Matthew Wood, originally born in Lethbridge, Alberta, played one season with the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL, and led the league in points (85) and goals (45) in his rookie year. Similar to the projected first overall pick Connor Bedard, Wood played minor hockey at West Van Hockey Academy and was even teammates with Bedard on the BC Junior Canucks at the Brick tournament: a tournament for the most talented 10 and 11-year-olds across North America.
Picked in the second round of the 2020 WHL Draft by the Regina Pats, Wood passed up an opportunity to play alongside Bedard to pursue NCAA hockey. At just 17 years old, Wood scored the very first goal of the season for the UConn Huskies — and did so while being this season’s youngest NCAA player. Wood combined for 34 points (11 G, 23 A) in 35 games — the most points, goals, and assists by a UConn player.
What the scouts are saying
Craig Button, TSN: “Matthew Wood has that type of skillset — with the size, the shooting ability, the scoring accuracy — to be a real significant player in the NHL. You watch Matthew Wood play, no question he’s going to be a top-half, first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. No way teams want to pass on a big player who skates so well and scores like that.
In that same scouting report, Button compared Wood’s 6’3 frame, scoring touch, and on-ice awareness, including the ability to be a scoring threat from multiple angles — “in tight, from distance, and on the rush” — to former UConn Husky, Tage Thompson. In an interview with Steven Ellis of Daily Faceoff, Wood says he models his game after Evgeni Malkin and likes “big skilled guys who love to shoot and score from anywhere,” like Thompson.
Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff: “Wood’s skating isn’t pro level yet, but the improvement over the past two years has been noticeable. He’s good in bursts, but doesn’t have the true game-changing, separating speed that’ll allow him to stand out in the NHL. Wood would continue to benefit from extra time in college. He got a nice headstart compared to most of the draft class, but he’s probably another two years away from turning pro. The goal needs to be to continue improving his skating while adding some extra muscle.”
Skating was the only fixture of Wood’s game that Elite Prospects said wasn’t “NHL calibre” in their recent NHL Draft guide.
J.D. Burke, Elite Prospects: “Many of the same red flags that tempered my enthusiasm at the Hlinka Gretzky remain. Wood is still playing an incredibly simple north-south game and not showing much explosiveness or dynamism in the process.”
David. St Louis, Elite Prospects: “He gets too close to teammates, doesn’t feel defenders on his back, and tries plays he doesn’t have the room to pull off. The skill is really interesting, but he’s better at reacting than orchestrating scoring chances.”
Wood received a 47 overall for defensive skill, in comparison to his 81 overall for his offensive gameplay in Elite Prospects’ 2023 Draft Guide.
Rankings (per Elite Prospects)
Only on one occasion did Wood fall out of a first-round selection. Among the aforementioned rankings, Wood is forecasted, on average, to go 21st overall: with 10th overall as his highest selection and 33rd overall as his lowest. With a 23-pick gap, only time will tell how much Wood will ultimately rise or fall in his draft class. Chances are, he’ll likely round out the middle of the first round.
The consensus on Wood is a mixed bag. On one hand, his size is extremely enticing, and his ability to utilize his frame to make himself available at various spots on the ice doesn’t make him a one-trick pony. However, his skating and defensive decisions stick out like a sore thumb. In combination, these weaknesses amplify one another and as shown, can be costly.
Wood continues to produce at every level he plays, and as pointed out by Elite Prospects, has shades of power forward Jason Robertson’s game. Wood certainly has the skill to be an NHLer, but if his skating doesn’t improve, it will be all for naught.
It will be unlikely for Wood to be unavailable for the Canucks at number 11, but with all but three spots in the top 16 pegged to be used on other forwards, do the Canucks see enough upside in Wood to see how he’ll develop in the next three years? Or do the Canucks jump on one of the five defencemen projected to be taken in the first round? Such as right-hander Axel Sandin Pellika, who like Wood, is playing among men. It very well might depend on how the first 10 selections go.
What would your reaction be to the Canucks drafting hometowner Matthew Wood? Let us know in the comments section below!
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