The 2023 NHL Draft has widely been regarded as a deep draft at the forward position. There’s plenty of talent up front with Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and more. But there seem to be two prospects that might be getting overshadowed by that attention, Matthew Wood and Gabe Perreault. Both put up very respective seasons and could be heading to the podium at 12th overall to the Arizona Coyotes.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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The Coyotes are very familiar with the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), drafting Logan Cooley third overall last year. On the flip side, they could look to Wood, who comes from the NCAA at the University of Connecticut. Both Wood and Perreault have cemented themselves as first-round picks, but could they go as high as 12 to the Coyotes?
Wood rose to fame while playing in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) for the Victoria Grizzlies. With the Grizzlies, notching 45 goals and 85 points in 46 games. He also came away with the Brett Hull Trophy as the BCHL’s top scorer and the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy as the BCHL Rookie of the Year. He then made the decision to go to the NCAA, committing to the University of Connecticut.
While expectations weren’t that high for the young Alberta native, he shocked everyone. He recorded just under a point per game with 11 goals and 34 points in 35 games for the Huskies. Part of his success was due to his great size; he stands at 6-foot-4, which is something lots of teams will look for. Along with his height, he has a really nice wrist shot and isn’t afraid to let it rip.
General manager Bill Armstrong showed his desire to add size by drafting Conor Geekie last year. Could we see the same situation with Wood? He has all the intangibles you want from a first-round pick: good height and a shot. He also has been compared to Buffalo Sabres’ Tage Thompson, who was also drafted by Armstrong when he was in St. Louis. He would add plenty to an already stacked prospect pool, but with teams prioritizing size, he may not be there at 12.
“I’d like to think I’m responsible on the defensive side of the puck. I definitely don’t take that aspect of the game lightly…I would say if you were gonna say one skill of mine that stands out, it would be my shot, but I have a lot of other aspects that if you really watch my game wouldn’t stand out as well.”Matthew Wood speaking to FC Hockey
“Wood is one of the best pure goal-scorers in the draft this year. The tall, rangy winger has an elite shot and a knack for scoring goals at a high rate. His release is extremely quick and he gets lots of power behind every shot. Wood’s ability to find the back of the net also stems from his high-end hands and IQ with the puck. He’s got a long reach and a good active stick, and can find passing and shooting lanes well, but he’s got to improve his speed, mobility and two-way game.”Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects
Perreault was part of a stacked USNTDP team with the likes of Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, and more. That line was arguably one of the best, and Perreault was a big part of their success. During the past season, he put up ridiculous numbers, which consisted of 53 goals and 132 points in 63 games. With his 132 points, he broke Auston Matthew’s previous record of 117.
When watching Perreault, you first notice his playmaking ability; he is all over the ice creating opportunities. He has quick hands, which allows him to make space for himself and his teammates. He also played a big part on the power play with the USNTDP, scoring many of his goals there. Perreault also has a good shot. It’s nothing crazy, but when he sees an open lane, he’s not afraid to let it rip.
Perreault definitely doesn’t have Wood’s height, but he has the offensive upside you look for in a prospect. Although he’ll have to work on his skating and defensive awareness, it’s clear he is a pure playmaker and can create chances in a split second. They already have an elite playmaker in Cooley and could look to add to that by drafting Perreault.
A great playmaker who possesses strong vision, Perreault is a real threat on the ice as he has good speed and the ability to be a heaven presence on the forecheck. He is a very intelligent player and brings a creative style of play when he is on the ice. In small ice or plays along the wall, Perreault tends to make smart decisions with the puck on his stick as well as his body.”Clare McManus, Smaht Scouting
He’s very creative with his stickhandling and isn’t afraid to take on opposing defensemen one-on-one off the rush. His quick hands allow him to stickhandle his way out of pressure and move the puck to an open teammate to maintain possession. He shoots often, but is smart with selecting the right shots to take. What’s interesting is that it’s like he plays with the mindset of a goalscorer, yet is very accurate with his passes. I would definitely classify him as a playmaker; he thinks and sees the game really well which contributes to his playmaking ability.Sean Raggio, The Hockey Writers
Coyotes Have Plenty of Options
While Wood and Perreault are only a couple of options, Wood is likely the better choice out of the two. This isn’t taking away from Perreault’s great season, but Wood likely has the higher ceiling. He already has a year of NCAA experience under his belt and has the height GM Armstrong has desired. Both prospects would be great options for the Coyotes as they present them with different skill sets, but out of the two, height may be the deciding factor with Wood.