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We enter the teens of our ‘Top 25 Avalanche Under 25’ series today, with defenseman Kyle Wood holding down the #19 spot on our list. Wood is essentially a polar opposite to the much smaller forward, Colin Smith, who was profiled yesterday.
The 6’5″ and 210 pound Wood was consistently rated by the BSN Avalanche staff, with the six votes split between 18th and 19th. His physical tools and hockey smarts give him the look of a future NHL defenseman, although he still has many raw edges that need to be smoothed if he is going to translate that potential into an NHL worthy game.
Who is Kyle Wood?
The Avalanche took a bit of a flier on Wood during the 3rd round of the 2014 NHL draft, considering the young defenseman was only rated 191st on Central Scouting’s final 2014 North American skaters rankings.
Wood was finishing up an injury plagued season with his OHL team, the North Bay Battalion, which saw him put up two goals and 12 points in just 33 games played.
Despite his low rating with Central Scouting, Wood gathered some positive momentum prior to the draft, with many calling him a late-bloomer, leading to speculation that he could end up being a mid-round pick. The Avalanche ended up being that team to give him a chance.
The Avs are being rewarded with a very exciting prospect. Last season Wood broke out, with a 16 goal and 40 point campaign, and served as the anchor of the North Bay defensive core. Wood’s impressive frame allows him to be a physically dominant force, and he has proven to be much more than a stay-at-home defenseman.
Hockey’s Future called his offensive game “underrated,” and said “teammates love having him on the backend and opponents hate going up against him.”
Eldon McDonald of The Hockey Writers described Wood as a “security blanket” with the ability to catch the opposition off guard with impressive stretch passes. He served as an important cog on the North Bay power play with his above average shot (rated 2nd hardest in the Eastern Conference in the annual OHL coaches poll), and intelligent game.
Video highlights, while limited, showcase Wood’s offensive ability when he scores and his all-around game (he’s No. 3) throughout the highlight reel.
I like how Wood initiated the Battalion rush which led to their 4th goal of the game (near the 1:30 mark). If Wood can consistently maximize this element of his game, he will potentially fit in just fine with the stable of speedy forwards in Colorado in a couple years time.
What is the future for Kyle Wood?
Most of the commentary above was purely positive for Wood, and he deserves it. However, it’s important to examine the other end of the coin. Wood still needs to improve his skating and positional play if he wants to make it as a legitimate NHL defenseman. This is true for almost any skater with his size.
Playing defense in the NHL requires quick feet, and the ability to make minor adjustments laterally and in reverse at all times.
At training camp in 2014, Wood showed off the exciting tools in his arsenal, but also looked very raw. He didn’t always utilize his frame to his advantage, and was taken advantage of by many of the quicker and more experienced skaters on the ice in transition and in the corners.
Fortunately, this is mostly to be expected for an 18-year old in his first professional camp. Wood made massive strides in his game in juniors last season, and is about a year behind Mason Geertsen in the development curve. If Wood can take things to the next level like Geertsen did in his 19-year-old season, look out.
Wood will likely be one of the top d-man in the OHL next season, and projects as a top-4 NHL defenseman who can play minutes in all situations. These next two years will be critical in Wood’s development, to ensure he reaches his promising potential. My bet is that he does just that. I’ll make a bold prediction, and say that Kyle Wood makes the biggest jump on the ‘Top 25 Avs Under 25’ list from this season to next.