Matthew Wood of Nanaimo never doubted his choice of the U.S. NCAA over the Western Hockey League and that decision has yet to let him down. The former Victoria Grizzlies forward and B.C. Hockey League scoring champion, selected 15th overall in the first round of the 2023 NHL draft by the Nashville Predators, was named Tuesday to the Canadian team selection camp for the 2024 world junior championship tournament beginning Boxing Day in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The camp runs Sunday to Dec. 13 in Oakville, Ont, and will include two exhibition games against a U Sports all-star team.
Wood was one of only two NCAA players named to the 30-member Canadian camp, along with forward Macklin Celebrini from Boston University, ranked No. 1 for the 2024 NHL draft.
Wood has seven goals and five assists for 12 points in 17 games this season for the University of Connecticut Huskies and is among 16 forwards named along with 10 defencemen and four goaltenders to Canadian selection camp beginning Sunday in Oakville, Ont. The six-foot-four power-winger was the youngest player in NCAA Div. 1 last season with 11 goals and 34 points in 35 games as a UConn freshman after winning the BCHL scoring championship the previous season with the Grizzlies.
“Canada has an incredible talent pool of players, and there are always difficult decisions to narrow it down,” Peter Anholt, U-20 lead for the Hockey Canada program of excellence management group, said in a statement.
“We are expecting a highly competitive camp and we look forward to naming our final roster that will wear the Maple Leaf with pride,” added Anholt, also GM of the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL.
Nine WHL players were named for the Canadian camp, including goaltender Scott Ratzlaff of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who were playing the Victoria Royals on Tuesday night in Kent, Washington. The other WHL players selected are defencemen Denton Mateychuk of the Moose Jaw Warriors and Tanner Molendyk of the Saskatoon Blades and forwards Nate Danielson of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Jagger Firkus and Brayden Yager of the Warriors, Conor Geekie and Matthew Savoie of the Wenatchee Wild and Fraser Minten of the Blades.
The U.S. team, by comparison, also named its team with only two players from the Canadian Hockey League, which includes the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The other 28 players are from the NCAA. That reflects recent NHL drafts, which are breaking down into roughly even 33 per-cent splits between the CHL, NCAA/or NCAA-bound USHL players, and European-developed players.
Of the 224 players selected in the 2023 NHL draft, 80 were from the CHL.
“The CHL is still No. 1 but the game has really evolved into very much of an international game with the number of Europeans now playing at the NHL level and Americans, also,” WHL commissioner Ron Robison told the Times Colonist.
The Canadian junior team will depart for Malmo, Sweden, on Dec. 14 for a pre-tournament camp ahead of the world juniors and will play pre-tournament games against a U-25 Danish team on Dec. 19 and the Swiss and American world junior teams on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, respectively.
The world junior championship begins Boxing Day with Canada playing Finland at 5:30 a.m. PT.
ICE CHIPS: Grizzlies defenceman Richard Baran has been invited to the world junior camp of Slovakia. … The Czechs have yet to name their roster but it is expected to include Royals forward Robin Sapousek, who was a member of the 2023 silver-medallist world junior Czechia team.