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  • Matthew Wood Fits the Bill As A Wild Draft Target


    Image courtesy of UConn YouTube screenshot
    Tony Abbott

    With the NHL Draft weeks away, it's time to start cramming for the big event and figuring out what shiny new prospect the Minnesota Wild are going to bring into the fold. The organization is entering its fourth draft with director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett at the helm, and his history can offer clues as to who it might be.

    Looking at Minnesota's past three draft classes, we can see a pattern of two types of players emerging as favorites of Brackett's staff. The first tendency is that of grabbing high-upside players with lots of production backing them up. According to Hockey Prospecting, which uses an NHL equivalency (NHLe) model to project future performance, Wild first-rounders tend to score high in star potential.

    At the 2020 Draft, Marco Rossi had a 77% chance of becoming a star according to the Hockey Prospecting model. He was tied with No. 2 overall selection Quinton Byfield for the highest star probability in the class. In 2022, the Wild scooped up Danila Yurov at No. 24 overall, and his 61% star probability was second among his peers. 

    The other category of player the Wild tend to zero in on is the Top-10 talent that takes a tumble come draft day. In 2021, Minnesota used their first of two first-round picks on Jesper Wallstedt. Scouts hyped Wallstedt as one of the best goalie prospects in recent memory, but he wasn't the first goalie to get picked that year. The Wild then snagged Carson Lambos with their second first-rounder, a defenseman whose tough year bumped him from potentially going into the top-10 to 25th overall. Yurov even falls into both categories.

    If you're looking for likely names for the Wild to call, those are the two starting points we have to look at. Who is that player going to be this year?

    There are a surprising amount of options for high-upside players by the time the Wild pick. Hockey Prospecting has 17 players in this class who carry a 40% or higher star probability. They won't go all go in the top-17 picks, and there will be many available to Minnesota at 21 overall. There are quite a few of those prospects who scouts, at one time, projected as contending for the top-15 or so before falling into the 20s, or further.

    But Matthew Wood is the one player who seems to truly fit both of Brackett's MOs — the high-upside player who is falling in draft rankings. Prashanth Iyer of the Expected By Whom Podcast is tracking the draft stocks of the 2023 class over the past year. Here's how Wood's ranking fluctuates over time: 

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    Wood started out the 2023 draft cycle as a contender for the first 10 picks. Since then, the 6'4" winger dropped to the back end of the first round before rebounding a bit to settle in at around a 19th overall ranking. Wood may still be a top-10 pick because some scouts seem to love him. However, others are much more tepid on him. There's a range of outcomes here.

    It was the same with Yurov last season. No one quite knew where he was going to ultimately land, despite his talents. Wood may not have a KHL contract and an uncertain geopolitical situation hanging over his head. But in a draft class this deep, high-priority positions like center and defense might send Wood tumbling down the board.

    We might be getting ahead of ourselves, though. Why should Wild fans want their team to select Wood? For one, Wood looks like a right-shot version of another large, skilled Hockey East product: Matt Boldy

    Like Boldy, Wood also combines a very good shot with the ability to thread passes in traffic, and both muscle through and dance around defenders. Sometimes Wood does both in the same play. You can see those traits on display while watching highlights of his freshman season. Don't worry about not being able to find Wood in these videos: He's the giant dude wearing "71."

    The shot and fancy plays stand out, but most impressive is how smart Wood is on the ice. He can draw defenders to him to open up space while finding soft spots in the offensive zone for himself. Wood can show off brawn and muscle through players and still know where his teammates are, seting them up with a nifty pass. You can see him use the threat of the pass to get defenders to bite as he turns toward the net. It's all on display.

    Even better, Wood isn't going to worry Wild fans with a slow transition to the NCAA game like Boldy did in his freshman year. Wood turned 18 in February, but he's already made the leap at UCONN. He led the team in scoring with 34 points in 35 games, including being tied for third on the team with 11 goals. He's also showed up in international tournaments, scoring 13 points (tied for sixth) in the Under-18 World Junior Championships.

    It's hard to succeed in the NCAA at such a young age. Even players like Jack Eichel, Phil Kessel, and Adam Fantilli were true 18-year-olds for most of their freshman seasons, with birthdays in the September to November range. There was only one other draft-eligible NCAA forward born after January 1 who stands on even footing with Wood production-wise this century.

    That's Jonathan Toews, who put up 39 points in 42 games for the University of North Dakota leading up to the 2006 Draft. Not a bad player to be the only other guy on a list with. Even when opening up the floor to all draft-eligible prospects, Wood's 0.97 points per game is in the top-10 for prospects since 2000, right up there with recent top picks Kent Johnson (1.04) and Matt Beniers (1.00).

    What's more, all of these wildly successful prospects end up at the highest of high-tier programs. Wood put up his numbers in a relative backwater in UCONN. 

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    There are probably going to be two knocks on him, one from a scout's point of view and the other from a Wild-centric perspective. Speed is most scouts' concern, which can seem worrisome to those who remember the days of, say, former first-round bust Zack Phillips. 

    But that was also a knock on Boldy's game, as well as another former top Wild prospect Alex Tuch. Legs can get stronger, and they often do. Wood can get separation at the college level against older, stronger competition, which is a good sign for now. And also, teams don't get the chance to draft someone with Wood's size and skill every year, especially not at 21.

    The other is the fact that Wood is a winger, not a center -- something we hinted at earlier. He only took five faceoffs at UCONN in his freshman year, so we can't really expect a shift to the middle going forward. Fans might be hesitant to see the Wild draft a wing, but there likely won't be slam-dunk center options at 21. Instead of forcing an unideal solution into an area of weakness, Brackett might be better off solving the problems he can address.

    With Boldy (6'3"), Yurov (6'1"), and Liam Öhgren (6'1"), Wood adds to a stable of bigger wingers to offset the smaller statures of 5'9" center prospects Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov. Besides, by the time Wood is ready for NHL minutes, who knows? Rossi, Khusnutdinov, and Joel Eriksson Ek might be established centers, and there may well be a need for a skilled wing prospect. It's hard to project needs for two-to-three years out. Just get the best players you can.

    Wood has good offensive upside and fits the organization's identity as a team with size and skill. Best of all, he might fall into Minnesota's lap this month. If he's there for the taking, this has all the makings of a classic Brackett selection.

    All stats via Elite Prospects unless otherwise noted.

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    If they opt for a right handed shot at RW, Koehn Ziemmer might also be in play. He tallied 41 goals and 48 assists in 68 WHL games this season. While he's only 6'0", he is already 200 pounds and has excellent scoring and puck skills.

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    “Ziemmer has a pro-ready frame and a high skill floor, meaning he should at the very least be a middle-six winger who provides a good amount of value on the power play. He’s got a great wrist shot, more because of his quick release than the power of his shot.” – Logan Horn, The Hockey Writers

    “Dangerous goal scorer with a deceptive release and good puck skills. Added explosiveness will make him an even greater threat as he progresses toward being a top-six forward at the NHL level.”- Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects

    Some think Ziemmer could be there at the start of the 2nd round, but others have him rated around where the Wild select. He may be more likely if the Wild find another pick late in the 1st through a trade, but he looks like a gamer.

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    I've got to say, no disrespect to Wood, but I'm going to be disappointed if we don't get the center we need. Sure, Rossi and Khus&*() could be answers, but with limited video on Khus$%^&*( and Rossi's full season performance, I can't see those 2 plugging in. 

    To me, it's Moore, Danielson, and Ritchie, and from what I've seen, Danielson also appears to be sliding. I'm also a leaning toward Mateo's Edstrom suggestion, though, most of the sites I've seen still list him even below the 2nd round.

    For Wood to be in the range, he needs to be a very good skater, high hockey IQ and have a 200' game. In a scouting report done by THW, they have IQ in the + column, and skating (acceleration), and defense in the - column. I don't believe that this checks Brackett's boxes.

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    The number of teams who select centers and defense will perhaps leave some nice wingers and Wood seems like a good option there.

    I said the same a few weeks ago about the Wild kinda stuck between where the top centers go and the next tier of center prospects. If they are forced to pick the best player available that's okay I suppose. 

    Having followed Wild drafts and looking into different players, I've pretty much concluded it won't go as expected. I wanted the Wild to take Thompson and they took Kunin. I wanted the Wild to take Jarvis or Lundell and they took Rossi. I wanted the Wild to get a Lakeville kid and Fletcher traded the pick. I.e. we can speculate all day long and be way off. When Detroit took Cossa and Wallstedt were there, it seemed likely the Wild would take him and they did. That was really the only predictable draft where the guess was good but would Minnesota have taken Cossa if Detroit went elite Swede? 

    The biggest thing to me is how the Wild continue to either miss on centers or simply not prioritize that position even though the consensus is that it's the most important position and hard to find. Harder to find than a Talbot or other serviceable tendy.

    In this draft especially, I'll be sad to see the Wild come up short on centers. I think the writers and draft projections are full of shit over half the time. Outside of the top five or ten picks it's such a crap shoot. Maybe the Wild can just get lucky and the scenario plays out to the Wild's benefit.

    It's hard to get too psyched about late first rounders because the Wild have always been just good enough to miss top selections and never bad enough to get sure-things. What would make me happy is, if the Wild can trade up to get a decent sized NA center. The Wild are just so great at disappointing fans, it's my default prediction they'll goof things up and pick some guy from the models and upside-projector tools and ignore the reality check getting another Kunin or Rossi who within five years are gone rather than leading the team. 

    Time will tell but before long Chicago will be making gains and Minnesota will run out of time with #97. I think 2020 was so important to get an NHL player and Brackett thought the best player from the worst hockey country except for Hungary was the way to make it count. Good grief, we deserve to be miserable. 5'9" 160 doesn't work in the NHL and everyone has known that forever. That's what Euro leagues are for...

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    I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to sell out to move up into the top ten to get our center. This is a deep '23 draft and feel the value this year is cant miss.

    I would part with our #1 pick, one of our #2 this year, next years #2 or one of our prospects in a package deal to a team rebuilding. Maybe next years #1 depending where we land.

    We have so many prospects I feel the timing is right. Pretty soon they are going to be blocking each others path.

    It's our only chance as we are not going to be able to afford a 1C or 2C in a trade. Oliver Moore fits the bill.

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    5 hours ago, mnfaninnc said:

    I've got to say, no disrespect to Wood, but I'm going to be disappointed if we don't get the center we need. Sure, Rossi and Khus&*() could be answers, but with limited video on Khus$%^&*( and Rossi's full season performance, I can't see those 2 plugging in. 

    To me, it's Moore, Danielson, and Ritchie, and from what I've seen, Danielson also appears to be sliding. I'm also a leaning toward Mateo's Edstrom suggestion, though, most of the sites I've seen still list him even below the 2nd round.

    For Wood to be in the range, he needs to be a very good skater, high hockey IQ and have a 200' game. In a scouting report done by THW, they have IQ in the + column, and skating (acceleration), and defense in the - column. I don't believe that this checks Brackett's boxes.

    I found something to challenge!!! I will say though, I see merit to your perspective and would otherwise agree.

    However, I would hope the Wild would take Woods if the talent gap is significant between him and any available C’s.

    I guess I’m not really disagreeing with you here. I just push back on preferring to take need over best available.

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    1 hour ago, vonlonster67 said:

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to sell out to move up into the top ten to get our center. This is a deep '23 draft and feel the value this year is cant miss.

    I would part with our #1 pick, one of our #2 this year, next years #2 or one of our prospects in a package deal to a team rebuilding. Maybe next years #1 depending where we land.

    We have so many prospects I feel the timing is right. Pretty soon they are going to be blocking each others path.

    It's our only chance as we are not going to be able to afford a 1C or 2C in a trade. Oliver Moore fits the bill.

    Radical blowup. I do like it. All the eggs in one basket (the ‘23 draft), less confident it would work. 
     

    Maybe one day we will pick top 5. In 2036

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    1 hour ago, Jon said:

    Radical blowup. I do like it. All the eggs in one basket (the ‘23 draft), less confident it would work. 
     

    Maybe one day we will pick top 5. In 2036

    With Oliver Moore in our backyard at the UMN it would be an ideal pick. 

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    1 hour ago, Jon said:

    However, I would hope the Wild would take Woods if the talent gap is significant between him and any available C’s.

    I guess I’m not really disagreeing with you here. I just push back on preferring to take need over best available.

    Jon, my plan is for multiple 1sts this offseason. I'd really like 3 of them, but not sure what we'd have to give up. #21 would be our lowest of the 3. 

    I'd certainly put the 2024 1st into play, top 10 protected. Our 2 2nds this year also and someone like Addison. It will be hard, but Shooter can get it done. That would completely end our rebuild, the development would be the next step.

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    I would much rather trade up and get a quality center prospect than king drafting wingers. They are by far the easiest position to acquire.

    Rossi might turn out, but at this point it’s kind of a coin toss and Khus. Is kind of a who knows at this point. We need more quality center prospects. If Rossi and Khus turn out, and we still have Ek we would just be loaded on quality centers, which is a good thing.

    Trade our 1st, Addison, and a 2nd to move up.

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    The Wild should explore making a trade, in the hopes of acquiring another 1st round pick in this year's draft. They could draft a quality center and then gamble on a winger. Adisson seems to have fallen out of favor with this team, so maybe he could be packaged with a 2nd round pick and 5th round pick to move up into the first round.

    The Wild desperately need a quality center for the Kaprizov line, and a Zuccarello replacement after next season. This draft is loaded with talent, so the Wild should be able to do both.

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    Do we really need another wing with Yurov and Ohgren  '24-'25 in the system and Walker and Beckman '23-'24 in IA. Yurov for sure play's on KK's line when Zucci hangs up his skates. I'd take Yurov over Woods, plus him not being ready no later than Yurov, possibly more.

    We have several (C's) in the ranks we don't know if they'll make the next level in Rossi ('23-'24), Khusnutdinov (C/LW) ('24-25), Bankier ('23-'24), Haight ('25-'26), and Petrovský ('25-'26)and could end up slotting at a wing position.

    I'm standing firm, move up now this year in '23 or use the Tampa Bay way and trade your late #1's for a known quantity later. How many more picks is going to make us a top 3 prospect pool. We are there and so far we have only seen Ek and Boldy (in process)develop from our 1st rounds. 

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    It's such a fine line because had the Wild kep Tuch, taken Thompson, not traded for Hanzal and picked Oettinger there would have been some nice value in their prime with MN now. We might not have Knudi in the prospect pool or Wallstedt, but it's an example of how critical the draft can be. Thompson also helped STL win a Cup and dominate the Central with O'Rielly when he was traded to Buffalo.

    I've got some faith in GMBG, but I think Brackett is channeling the ghost of Paul Fenton and needs to go more Don Cherry. Quit picking Euro players...

     

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    On 6/3/2023 at 2:00 PM, vonlonster67 said:

    Do we really need another wing with Yurov and Ohgren  '24-'25 in the system and Walker and Beckman '23-'24 in IA. Yurov for sure play's on KK's line when Zucci hangs up his skates. I'd take Yurov over Woods, plus him not being ready no later than Yurov, possibly more.

    We have several (C's) in the ranks we don't know if they'll make the next level in Rossi ('23-'24), Khusnutdinov (C/LW) ('24-25), Bankier ('23-'24), Haight ('25-'26), and Petrovský ('25-'26)and could end up slotting at a wing position.

    I'm standing firm, move up now this year in '23 or use the Tampa Bay way and trade your late #1's for a known quantity later. How many more picks is going to make us a top 3 prospect pool. We are there and so far we have only seen Ek and Boldy (in process)develop from our 1st rounds. 

    Given how many Wild draft picks have flopped, I don't think there is such a thing as having to many prospects / draft picks at a certain position.

    People talk about Yurov being the Zuccarello replacement, but there is no guarantee on that. Look at what has happened with Rossi, he was supposed to be a big time center prospect, yet has really struggled. If you draft a 2nd Zuccarello replacement, then you have some insurance, should one of them not pan out. If both succeed, then you have a trade chip.

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    On 6/4/2023 at 9:03 PM, Quebec1648 said:

    Given how many Wild draft picks have flopped, I don't think there is such a thing as having to many prospects / draft picks at a certain position.

    People talk about Yurov being the Zuccarello replacement, but there is no guarantee on that. Look at what has happened with Rossi, he was supposed to be a big time center prospect, yet has really struggled. If you draft a 2nd Zuccarello replacement, then you have some insurance, should one of them not pan out. If both succeed, then you have a trade chip.

    Small sample size of video clips but he looks like a young malkin. Big dude, soft hands, not super quick, but shifty. Hopefully plays with more energy than malkin if the wild pick him. 

    On 6/2/2023 at 11:31 AM, Imyourhuckleberry said:

    If they opt for a right handed shot at RW, Koehn Ziemmer might also be in play. He tallied 41 goals and 48 assists in 68 WHL games this season. While he's only 6'0", he is already 200 pounds and has excellent scoring and puck skills.

    Some think Ziemmer could be there at the start of the 2nd round, but others have him rated around where the Wild select. He may be more likely if the Wild find another pick late in the 1st through a trade, but he looks like a gamer.

     

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    On 6/4/2023 at 10:03 PM, Quebec1648 said:

    People talk about Yurov being the Zuccarello replacement, but there is no guarantee on that. Look at what has happened with Rossi, he was supposed to be a big time center prospect, yet has really struggled. If you draft a 2nd Zuccarello replacement, then you have some insurance, should one of them not pan out. If both succeed, then you have a trade chip.

    If you look at the organization, there is a huge weakness down the middle. Focusing on drafting centers should be the course we take. Failed centers usually can be converted into wings. We simply need to trade to get up higher (while keeping #21) and stocking the cupboards with centers. 

    If Khus^&* and Rossi flame out at center, they could be converted to wings like Granlund was. I think both have NHL talent, and just need to be more aggressive. Picking up a Getzlaf & Kesler would be huge for this franchise!

    I'd also like to remind everyone that Evason was a part of a Hartford team that got 3 centers almost all at once. Francis, Ferraro and Evason grew into the game together. We might have that same thing happen here.

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    4 hours ago, Up North Guy said:

    The Athletic believes that both Moore and Wood will be drafted well before the Wild select.

    Where do they list Samuel Honzek?

    Looks like he's supposed to go around the Wild's selection. Question on whether he'll end up at C or W, but skates well enough and has good height at 6'4". He's under 190 pounds at age 18, but you'd expect him to fill out.

    Also produced 56 points in 46 WHL games. He missed a chunk of games, but led his mediocre Vancouver Giants team in +/- with a +17 and was second on the team in points despite playing 23 fewer games than the next 3 guys behind him.

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    ^^^

    Could be a good pick. Tage Thompson took awhile to become an NHL star. Will the Wild look for ready now guys or bite the bullet and take players who need time? Honzek will probably take some time to mature and get stronger. 

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    On 6/6/2023 at 8:24 PM, Protec said:

    ^^^

    Could be a good pick. Tage Thompson took awhile to become an NHL star. Will the Wild look for ready now guys or bite the bullet and take players who need time? Honzek will probably take some time to mature and get stronger. 

    The Wild have two more years of Salary cap purgatory, so they can be a patient. The only real deadline, is the Kaprizov contract. If The Wild want to keep Kaprizov here long term, then they have to show some progress on the ice. If the team can't advance beyond round 1, I think Kaprizov will be reluctant to stick around after his deal runs out.

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    On 6/3/2023 at 4:25 PM, Protec said:

    Thompson also helped STL win a Cup and dominate the Central with O'Rielly when he was traded to Buffalo.

    Thompson was traded July 1st 2018.

    in his 2017 to 2018 year he had 9pts in 41 games.

    in 2018 to 2019 with Buffalo he had 12pts in 65 games 

    St Louis won their Cup in  2018-2019 

    so…not really

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    On 6/6/2023 at 2:53 PM, Imyourhuckleberry said:

    Where do they list Samuel Honzek?

    Looks like he's supposed to go around the Wild's selection. Question on whether he'll end up at C or W, but skates well enough and has good height at 6'4". He's under 190 pounds at age 18, but you'd expect him to fill out.

    Also produced 56 points in 46 WHL games. He missed a chunk of games, but led his mediocre Vancouver Giants team in +/- with a +17 and was second on the team in points despite playing 23 fewer games than the next 3 guys behind him.

    They think he will almost certainly be a lw.

    wood is listed as a C/Rw but everyone thinks he’s a Rw.

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    On 6/5/2023 at 9:31 PM, tbl said:

    Big dude, soft hands, not super quick, but shifty. Hopefully plays with more energy than malkin if the wild pick him. 

    Yurov has excellent skating. Skating is so good a lot of experts think he could be a Center.

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    On 6/4/2023 at 9:03 PM, Quebec1648 said:

    Look at what has happened with Rossi, he was supposed to be a big time center prospect, yet has really struggled.

    He hasn’t even played 40 Nhl games yet.

    look at Tage Thompsons first 3-4 years.

    Look at Joel Eriksson Eks first 3-4 years.

    I agree that you can never have too many prospects but for the love of God give him time. 
    players don’t start their first couple years as superstars unless they are named McDavid.

    it’s unbelievable how impatient people are.

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    3 hours ago, Mateo3xm said:

    Thompson was traded July 1st 2018.

    in his 2017 to 2018 year he had 9pts in 41 games.

    in 2018 to 2019 with Buffalo he had 12pts in 65 games 

    St Louis won their Cup in  2018-2019 

    so…not really

    You're reading it wrong. Thompson is the primary player traded for O'Reilly so yeah Thompson the prospect going to Buffalo 100% helped STL win the Cup.

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