The 2023 NHL Draft is set to take place on June 28 and 29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings include five players that played in the BCHL last year and another two who are BCHL alumni in college hockey.
Leading up to the draft, we will share interviews with the prospects about the draft process and a variety of other subjects.
The BCHL’s 2023 NHL Draft coverage is presented by Chevrolet.
After leading the BCHL in scoring in his 16-year-old season in 2021-22, Victoria Grizzlies standout forward Matthew Wood made the jump to NCAA hockey a year early and played his freshman campaign as a 17-year-old at the University of Connecticut.
Despite being the youngest player in all of college hockey, Wood did not appear out of place, finishing his first year of NCAA hockey with 34 points in 35 games and earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team, all while boosting his draft stock to the point where he is a sure fire first-rounder as the fourth ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
We caught up with Wood the week before the draft to get his thoughts on playing college hockey a year early, his experience in the BCHL and what he’s looking forward to at the draft.
BCHL: What was it like for you making the jump to college hockey, especially a year early, and being the youngest player on the ice night in and night out?
Wood: It was definitely a huge jump. Everyone is a lot older, bigger and faster, so I had a lot of learning to do. It’s a step up in every single category. Even just living in a dorm and taking care of all my school work and my laundry, it was a huge adjustment. I might have learned the hard way, but I think I got used to it and was able to do well in the second half.
The coaches and all the players treated me really well. I became really close with a lot of those guys. It’s pretty cool to be a part of a culture like that where everyone is just supporting each other. I had a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to going back next year.
BCHL: You first made your mark in the BCHL during the pod season back in 2020-21. Even though it was your 15-year-old season, you managed to put up 13 points in 18 games. What did that year do for your development?
Wood: That was a huge confidence booster going into the next season. I was able to come in after that, knowing what to expect and what to do. I think that really helped me a lot. I was pretty young then. We had a really good culture there. Everyone accepted me and that was really helpful. Just being able to get used to the speed and pace and everything that happens in the BCHL, that season really helped me going forward. I had a lot of fun also. It had almost been a year since I had played games because of COVID and I was finally able to play.
BCHL: Then your second year, you led the league in scoring, were a First-Team All-Star and an MVP finalist. How did everything come together for you?
Wood: I took that summer and worked as hard as I could to improve my game in all areas. I was able to learn from [teammate] Ellis Rickwood, who had the most points in the pod season. That was really helpful for me to be able to learn from him. I had a great line and we had a great power play. Our coaches really helped me too.
BCHL: When you’re meeting with NHL teams before the draft, how do you describe your game and how do you think it will translate to the pro level?
Wood: I’m an offensive threat. I can score from anywhere and I make good plays, giving guys pucks in the right areas. I’m able to create offence really well. Throughout the year, I developed really well defensively. I’ve turned into a responsible player that can play in any situation. I think all that is all going to translate.
BCHL: What would it mean to you and your family to get drafted?
Wood: I think it’s going to be a really fun experience. We don’t get to travel as a family that often, so it’s going to be really cool to do that. I think we’re all going to enjoy our time in Nashville. My family has helped me so much throughout my whole life, not even just in hockey, but through everything. I’m really grateful for them and happy to be able to share that experience with them.