A hockey player from Nanaimo is a first-round NHL draft pick.
Matthew Wood, 18, was selected 15th overall on Wednesday, June 28, by the Nashville Predators., the team that was hosting the National Hockey League draft.
Wood was born in Lethbridge, Alta., but lives in Nanaimo. He played junior A hockey with the Victoria Grizzlies and then played with the University of Connecticut Huskies of the NCAA Div. 1. The 6-foot-4, 197-pound forward was the No. 4-ranked North American player in NHL Central Scouting’s pre-draft rankings.
“He’s a big body who is growing into his frame,” said David Poile, Predators president of hockey operations, in a club press release. “He’s a goal scorer and he’s got size, and that’s something we really wanted. We were fortunate to get a player like Matthew at 15th overall who we rated very high heading into the draft.”
Wood led the BCHL in goals (45) and points (85) in his rookie season in 2021-22, then made the jump immediately to college hockey, where he led UConn in scoring with 34 points in 2022-23.
The Preds had two first-round picks, as they went on to select defenceman Tanner Molendyk, from McBride, B.C., 24th overall.
“As I’ve said before, when you’re coaching in the National Hockey League, you’re looking at guys who have impact,” said Predators general manager Barry Trotz, in the release. “Both of these players have outstanding quality. Where they were on our list is exactly where we thought we might have gotten them.”
Poile said the Predators are trying to add players they envision being on the team in two to three years.
“We got our goal scoring and size with our first pick, and we got our skating and speed with our second pick,” he said. “We’re looking for ingredients.”