Photo credit: Kyle Robinson Photography
By Sheldon Lee
Extraordinary talent in the athletic world generally starts young. In general, the standouts have loved the game from day one and, in the instance of Matthew Wood, that is no exception.
“It started before I can even remember,” said Wood. “I just really enjoyed watching [hockey] when I was young, so I got into it.”
The 16-year-old forward from Nanaimo, B.C. is not hard to spot on the ice. Whether it’s his willingness to shoot the puck, his on-ice vision or his 6-foot-3 frame, Wood tends to draw a lot of attention. He likes to use his impressive size to his advantage and tries to model his game after his two favourite players
“I try to play like Evgeni Malkin and Auston Matthews,” said Wood. “They’re bigger and taller guys, so I really enjoy watching them play.”
Those are not bad players to try and emulate. Wood put up Matthews-like numbers in 2019-20, with a 40-goal, 31-assist campaign in just 30 games with West Van Academy’s Bantam Prep team.
After his season in West Van, he joined the North Island Silvertips of the BC U18 league, albeit only for a brief amount of time. In five games with the Silvertips, he posted five goals and nine assists, finishing second in league scoring prior to play being shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.
With one season coming to an end, another opportunity was on the horizon for Wood. Although he was recruited by several hockey clubs, the sought-after prospect chose the BCHL route and seemed to know pretty quickly where he wanted to go.
“I was at camp with [the Grizzlies] last year,” he said. “I got to be around all the guys and they were awesome. I got to meet the coaches and I just really love everything about Victoria. It’s a great place”
The Grizzlies are certainly happy to have him as well. As a 16-year-old, Wood finished his rookie season with five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 18 games, helping the Grizzlies secure top spot in the Port Alberni Pod.
“We had a great year and we had a really great team,” said Wood. “We came first on the Island and it was a ton of fun, I learned a lot.”
He made a great impression on his coach too. Craig Didmon, the Grizzlies bench boss, had nothing but good things to say about Wood’s year and knows the Grizzlies are fortunate to have him.
“His skill set is exceptional,” said Didmon. “He has all the tools when it comes to size and ability, as well as the mental edge off the ice to be a 24/7 focused individual. Kudos to him to come in and play 18 games and come out unscathed in some capacity. He was a big part in a lot of those games.”
As the offseason begins, players start to focus on how they can better themselves for next year. While some feel the need to zero in on certain aspects of their game, Wood is taking a broader, more modest approach.
“I definitely want to work on getting stronger and quicker,” he said. “But really, everything can always be worked on, so I’m just going to keep working hard”