Matthew Wood may be in his rookie year with the Victoria Grizzlies, but that hasn’t slowed him down.
In 46 regular-season games, the 17-year-old from Nanaimo scored 45 goals and finished the regular season with a total of 85 points – the most in each category for any player in the B.C. Hockey League.
It’s an achievement he is proud of but it’s also one he refuses to take all the credit for.
“I trained really hard over the summer and came into this season thinking I could be the best player in the league and make a difference every game. I just took it one game at a time,” said Wood. “I had a lot of support from all of my teammates though, my linemates (Ellis) Rickwood and (Connor) Eddy especially … I can’t do it without that support.”
He said the confidence boost which comes with all that support is a big thing for him, and a key to his success on the ice.
While he is quick to say having a stellar season is not a goal in itself, he said it will help him as he moves forward in his hockey career. Wood has already committed to the University of Connecticut to play Division 1 in the NCAA. But when exactly he will head south is yet to be determined.
“It will help for sure in college knowing I can score on all these guys who also came from juniors,” he said. “It gives me the confidence for the next level and gives me what I need to move forward.”
Grizzlies president Lance Black agreed the entire line is part of Wood’s success and said the teen has the skills that are needed to make the most of that teamwork.
“Matthew has all the tools. He’s got the size, he’s got the agility, he’s got the IQ,” said Black. “He can spin on a dime and the puck seems to follow him on a string – it’s incredible. Looking forward to the (NHL) draft next year, he’s probably in the top 10.”
Black said the team knew from the moment they signed him that he would be a top-notch player, meaning his success this season was no surprise, even when he was hit with some disadvantages.
“When you look at him leading the scoring, you have to remember he missed seven or eight games because of a suspension and going to play for U17 Team Canada.”
The Grizzlies are currently in the first round of the playoffs facing a make-or-break game Friday night against the Langley Rivermen, who lead the series 3-1.
“I have to make sure I’m not turning pucks over at the blue line, back-checking hard, and of course, I’ve got to do my part scoring goals for the team,” said Wood of Friday’s game.