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Matthew Wood taken 15th overall by Nashville Predators in 2023 NHL Draft

Wood becomes the Huskies’ highest NHL pick ever and the second-ever first-rounder.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Matthew Wood is officially the highest draft pick in UConn men’s hockey history. On Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators selected Wood with 15th overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, making him the Huskies’ second-ever first-round pick alongside Tage Thompson, who went 26th overall to the St. Louis Blues in the 2016 draft.

“In the short term, we’re going to let him develop. When you look at the profile – goal scorer – he’s a long way to grow. He’s a big body, he can score, we’re just gonna let them develop,” incoming Predators general manager Barry Trotz told ESPN. “We feel that we can get the right profiles — those dynamic people to get you out of your seats a little bit — you gotta score goals in this game, and you need some size to win in the playoffs. So hopefully he checks two of those boxes.”

A native of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Wood is a 6-foot-3 forward who joined UConn as the youngest player in college hockey this past season. Despite being just 17 years old until early February, the freshman led the Huskies with 23 assists and 34 points — both of which were good for second-most in a single season during UConn’s Hockey East era — while adding 11 goals as well.

Not only did Wood put up big numbers, he did so with remarkable consistency. He recorded at least one point in 25 of 35 games — including 14 of his last 15 — and never had more than a two-game stretch without landing on the scoresheet.

In the lead-up to the draft, most mock drafts and player rankings had Wood going somewhere between seventh and 17th overall. His shot and puck-handing abilities — especially for a player his size — are regarded as his top strengths while his skating ability is often knocked.

Prior to arriving at UConn, Wood tore up the BCHL with a league-best 45 goals and 85 points in 46 games with the Victoria Grizzlies. This past spring, he played for Team Canada in the U18 World Championships and put up seven goals and six assists in seven games.

Nashville has now taken more Huskies than any other NHL team with three selections total. The Predators took Tomas Vomacka in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and Jachym Kondelik in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. Incoming UConn goaltender Ethan Haider is also a Nashville prospect, having been taken in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.

Unlike the other major US leagues, draft picks usually do not join their NHL teams immediately. That means Wood will remain at UConn for at least one more season — and potentially more.

Wood is the Huskies’ 25th overall selection the NHL Entry Draft. UConn’s now had at least one player taken every year since 2013.