2023 NHL draft scouting report: Matthew Wood has similarities to Tage Thompson
With slim odds, the Flyers didn’t strike gold in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.
But they will have a chance to bring in some needed high-end talent near the top of the 2023 NHL draft.
“We’re fortunate it’s a good year,” Flyers general manager Danny Briere said of the draft crop in April. “We have quite a few picks and we have a high one.
“You have to go through a lot of bad times to get there unfortunately, but it’s exciting when you’re at the draft table and you get to pick such a high pick. It’s going to be a critical pick for the organization moving forward, there’s no doubt about it.”
After selecting Cutter Gauthier fifth overall last summer, the Flyers are slotted at No. 7 for this year’s draft, which will be held June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The club has nine total selections. The first round kicks off at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Rounds 2-7 follow Thursday starting at 11 a.m. ET.
Leading up to the draft, we’re breaking down targets for the Flyers at No. 7.
Position: Right winger
The long and lithe prospect oozes with upside because of his offensive strengths for a player of his size.
Wood possesses an advanced shot and can skillfully create or finish in tight space.
As a 17-year-old for the majority of his freshman season, the Canadian winger led the Huskies in scoring with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) over 35 games. His point total was third among freshmen in the Hockey East conference, behind only Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson (48 points at Boston University) and Flyers prospect Gauthier (37 points at Boston College).
Wood’s jump to the collegiate level came after he finished atop the BCHL a solid stepping-stone league for college-bound players in both goals (45) and points (85) last year through 46 games for the Victoria Grizzlies.
“As an underage player, one of the youngest players in the BCHL, he put up phenomenal numbers,” Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, said last Thursday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “So he can score. Hes an offensive player. Then he goes into the NCAAs, one of the youngest players in the league, and he goes and repeats the same type of performance.
“You can see and this is what makes him such a promising prospect his development over the course of the season. Because in the BCHL, you’re playing junior A hockey. But now in the NCAA, you’re playing men’s hockey and you have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to survive and handle the adversity.”
It’s clearly evident why Wood is drawing comparisons to Tage Thompson. The Sabres’ star winger is 6-foot-6, a righty shot and played at UConn. He was a late bloomer after being drafted by the Blues at 26th overall in 2016. Now at 25 years old, Thompson just had a 47-goal, 94-point season for Buffalo.
“He just has the offensive tools and the natural scoring touch,” Marr said of Wood. “But he’s very reminiscent of the same development path as Tage Thompson, very reminiscent. When people look at the path, they look at the type of player he is; now he’s coming in with a lot more offensive background than what Tage had, at Tage’s draft year.”
Wood is the fourth-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. He climbed four spots from his midterm ranking. Among the overall draft class, he’s the 21st-rated played by EliteProspects.com, while The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler has him at No. 10.
There’s some rawness to Wood’s makeup.
“They have a saying, ‘The bigger guys take a little longer,'” Marr said.
In part because of his size, Wood is not fast. He’ll have to continue to work on his skating and strength to play at a reliable pace.
“What was impressive about him is we were looking to see him take that next step with his skating,” Marr said. “And everything you were looking for to see him take as far as steps and areas to improve, he made those jumps and he made those gains.
“By the time you went to watch him in the second half, he changed his skating habits to where he kept his feet moving all the time. There was a lot less gliding to his game, he maintained stride all the time. So then he just ended up being in the right spot at the right time, like he would arrive on time and be open and get the scoring chance.”
Fit with Flyers
Wood’s greatest strengths should have the Flyers’ attention. The organization has desperately needed more pure shooters from the slot and circles. Wood is at his best in those areas.
Over the last two seasons combined, the Flyers have ranked last in the NHL with a 14.0 power play percentage and second to last with 2.62 goals per game.
Wood’s skill set is primed to supplement a team’s power play.
The Flyers are hopeful 2020 first-round pick Tyson Foerster will help address their lack of shoot-first goal-scoring talent. If the Flyers were to draft Wood, it would another layer of offensive potential along the wing.
Briere and company will have to debate Wood’s ceiling. Will his game round out enough to where his strengths translate up in the lineup? The Flyers definitely need to think about upside with the seventh overall pick.
Wood might not be definitively the best player available when the Flyers are on the clock, but there’s definitely high upside and the potential for him to fill holes in the future.
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