Vancouver Canucks draft, Matthew Wood

Canucks Draft: Prospect; BC Scorer And Skating Project

Canucks Draft Prospects

On Tuesday we profiled Zach Benson, a little guy on the left wing for the Winnipeg Ice (soon to be Wenatchee Wild) of the Western Hockey League and arguably the best two-way forward in the upper echelon of the 2023 NHL Draft. The Chilliwack native would be a popular pick and player for the Vancouver Canucks. He’s similar in size to Canucks veteran forward Conor Garland, but a very different player.

Now if the Canucks want to go in a completely opposite direction, presuming they don’t stick with picking a big right-shot defenceman, they could go to the other side of the ice for a forward who couldn’t be any less Benson-like.

University of Connecticut right winger Matthew Wood, who spent part of his life growing up in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and ended up playing almost two seasons for the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL, simply can’t stop growing. His profiles over the last few seasons read like growth charts; he’s now at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds.

It hasn’t hurt his sniping ability, but the overall skating continues to need work. Part of it is the size factor and the stature that just keeps on coming.

“Going into next year I’m just going to try and grow my game,” Wood told us on Tuesday. “I’m really focused this summer on improving all aspects of my game and coming in with more confidence and knowing more of what to expect. We had a huge freshman (1st year) class, 12 of us, and I think everyone’s going to take a big step next year and we’re going to have a really good team.”

Big Development

Patience will be a virtue for the club that grabs the big winger. He’ll need to continue developing the skating and he wants to graduate from university. That’s good news for the burgeoning Connecticut program, around long enough already to produce Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres. The school spent tens of millions of dollars over the last decade on facilities to establish its program.

“I’m happy with the path I’ve taken and I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Wood stated. “I was treated really well in Victoria and also at UConn, I really loved playing at both places and obviously next year at UConn I’m really looking forward to it. I get treated really well there, we have a new rink, it’s an unbelievable set-up and I have a lot of fun there.”

After 85 points in 46 games in the BC league in 2021-’22, Wood followed up with a point-a-game performance in his first year of college hockey,

Elite Prospects summed up his shooting ability:

He keeps distance between his feet and his hands in front, really pulling that top arm back and moving it across his body to shoot through opponents. Can shoot off either foot and even in motion (off the inside leg).

Canucks Options

The Canucks could stand to get a bit bigger and tougher up front, but do they have the patience to see if and when this player develops? One guy who seems to think so is Bob McKenzie of TSN Network.

Oddly enough, in his final rankings leading up the 2023 Draft, McKenzie had Wood slotted in at 11th-overall, exactly where the Canucks are picking.

The bigger factor is what the Canucks need and desire on the back end. It’s not likely Austria-born right-shot defenceman David Reinbacher falls to eleven, McKenzie has him ranked 8th-overall, and it would be too difficult to pass up another righty blueliner Axel Sandin Pelikka, a Swede well known to the club’s GM Patrik Allvin.

If the NHL Central Scouting Bureau is spot on, Vancouver will never get a chance to see Wood. They had him ranked 4th-overall among North American skaters. Most media and scouting services have him going somewhere between 10th and 15th-overall.

There are barriers to the likelihood, but the Canucks bringing home this big shot islander aren’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.