Highly-touted Victoria Grizzlies forward Wood commits to UConn

Matthew Wood had 13 points in 18 games for the Grizzlies during the shortened season last spring. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
AUGUST 16, 2021 09:49 PM

Matthew Wood of Nanaimo is only 16 but is already being hailed as the next big thing in hockey to come out of the Island.

“UConn landed one of the most highly rated recruits in program history, a source told The UConn Blog,” wrote Daniel Connolly, when Wood committed to the NCAA Div. 1 University of Connecticut Huskies last week.

“Another source called Wood a ‘special talent’ and believes the forward is one of the best prospects the Huskies have pulled out of British Columbia and could be one of their top ­commitments ever.”

The six-foot-four, 185-pound forward scored five goals and had eight assists for 13 points in 18 games for the Victoria ­Grizzlies in the pandemic-abbreviated 2021 BCHL bubble season.

“It was a big jump up from [U-18] and I am glad I got to do it this year, as short as it was, and not have to wait until next ­season,” said Wood.

Wood, who will be entering Belmont Secondary in Grade 11 next month, will be eligible for the 2023 NHL draft. Since he won’t be joining UConn until the fall of that year, he will be drafted out of the Grizzlies, as was forward Alex Newhook 16th overall in the 2019 first round to the ­Colorado Avalanche, before he joined Boston College that fall.

Wood sloughs off the speculation of where he will be slotted for the 2023 draft. It could be high.

“I don’t feel the pressure of that,” he said. “If people want to talk about that they can talk about it. I know people will be watching but I just go out and do what I do.”

Asked to describe the style fans will see at The Q Centre the next two seasons, Wood said: “I create offence, both scoring and setting up, but I don’t take defence for granted.”

The Islander said the ­decision to go with the ­Huskies, who already have two former ­Grizzlies in their lineup in Carter Berger and Jake Veilleux, as his choice of NCAA team was not made lightly.

“I liked the coach [Mike Cavanaugh] and everything just fit and fell into place,” he said.

Having chosen so early, ­people won’t constantly be ­asking him about it.

“It’s a relief to get it done and out of the way, and not have to worry about it, so I can just focus on playing in the BCHL and for the Grizzlies,” he said.

LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies will begin the preseason on Sept. 19 at The Q Centre against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The six-game exhibition campaign runs through Oct. 2 against the Nanaimo ­Clippers at The Q ­Centre.