Could the Calgary Flames take another college forward, Matthew Wood, in the 2023 NHL Draft?

Photo credit:courtesy UConn Athletics
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
Brought to you by odds site Betway!
In 2021, the Calgary Flames grabbed a college-bound goal-scoring machine by the name of Matt Coronato in the first round of the NHL Draft. Coronato had developed a reputation a strong offensive player in the United States Hockey League and seemed poised for future success.
In this year’s NHL Draft, they could nab a promising young offensive forward who’s already spent a full year in college as an 18-year-old. Let’s look at Canadian transplant Matthew Wood.

Scouting report

A product of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Wood is a 6’3″, 190 pound right shot forward. He’s listed as both a centre and a winger, but he spent the majority of his first season in college on the right wing. He’s a February 2005 birthday, so he turned 18 most of the way through his freshman year at the University of Connecticut.
As a B.C. kid, Wood played in some of the same leagues with presumptive first-overall pick Connor Bedard. Bedard went into major junior, while Wood – a child of a university administrator and former college player – had his eye on junior A and the NCAA route. That route led him to the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies, where he sizzled in 2021-22. He was the league’s top scorer and was excellent offensively in his one full season in that circuit. (He finished his high school more rapidly than anticipated and that cleared the path for him to go to college in 2022-23.)
Moving onto college hockey this season, despite spending most of his freshman year as a 17-year-old, he seemed to adjust really well and was playing top six minutes and regularly scoring.
Here’s a portion of what Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis had to say:
Wood is a big man at 6-foot-4, which NHL teams like. But he doesn’t play like a typical “big” prospect, such as fellow college draft prospect Charlie Stramel. Wood’s game is all about skill, and he has the hands to follow. He led Connecticut in shots, averaging around three a game. And it’s an excellent shot, too, putting significant power and accuracy behind it, and with the confidence to unleash it from most areas of the offensive zone.
“You don’t see many prospects built like him,” a scout said. “Fantilli and (Leo) Carlsson are both big and skilled, and Wood meets that criteria, too.”
Over at Dobber Prospects, Jordan Harris had a lot of positive scouting observations, albeit while identifying some critical areas for improvement:
“Wood was the youngest player in the NCAA this season after joining UConn as a 17-year-old. Despite being the youngest player, Wood certainly does not look like it, nor did he play like it. Wood is noticeably the biggest player on the ice in every game he plays and looks even bigger than the 6’3”, 190 pounds he’s listed at. He boasts an excellent shot and a nose for a net which allows him to score from both range and from in tight. He put up 34 points in 35 games with the Huskies, absurd numbers for a player his age. Despite his success, major question marks surrounding his skating, compete level, and lackadaisical handling of the puck exist, and present real risk as to whether he will ever reach his fullest potential.”
He’s got size. He’s got talent. He’s got the wherewithal to move to college at 17 and succeed. If he can figure out a way to improve his skating, he might be really, really good at the pro level. (Disclaimer: He’s done this well to this point of his playing career without being a great skater. If he can unlock that part of his game, who’s to say what his ceiling could be?)

The numbers

According to College Hockey News, Wood was the youngest player in the NCAA in 2022-23. Despite being super young, he had a superb season. He scored 11 goals and had 34 points over 35 games. He led UConn in points, and was the third-leading scorer overall among first-time draft eligible college players (behind Adam Fantilli and Gavin Brindley). And Brindley played more games, so Wood actually had the edge on a points-per-game basis.
Wood represented Canada twice in 2022-23, at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the Under-18 Worlds. He had five points in five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, helping Canada capture gold. He had 13 points in seven games at the Under-18 Worlds, leading Canada in scoring en route to a bronze medal and finishing seventh overall in scoring in the tournament.
Playing against players his own age (and older, in college), Wood performed really well offensively.

Availability and fit

The Flames are perpetually short on right shot forwards that have size and skill, and Wood seems to tick all of those items on their checklist. He’s played at a high level at a young age, and he’s teammates at UConn with goaltender (and Calgary Flames prospect) Arsenii Sergeev. (Calgary Wranglers blueliner Yan Kuznetsov also played at UConn, so the Flames know coach Mike Cavanaugh pretty well.) It seems likely that the Flames are familiar with the player. Given how well Coronato’s progressed, it seems unlikely that the Flames would shy away from collegiate players either – especially one who’s from western Canada.
It seems unclear if Wood will still be available when the Flames draft at 16th overall. McKeen’s and Scott Wheeler have him ranked 10th. Bob McKenzie has him 12th. Sportsnet and Corey Pronman have him 14th. Daily Faceoff has him 20th. Perhaps his skating challenges will see him slide a bit. Perhaps his size and offensive production at an early age will ensure he’s off the board. It’s hard to say, especially in a draft year where there’s a big lack of consensus after the top eight or nine names. Players will slide. It’s just not clear if Wood will be one of those players.

Check out these posts...