Thursday, December 7 2023

The Nashville Predators knew they weren’t going to get Connor Bedard in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday night.

So they picked Bedard’s former teammate and roommate, right winger Matthew Wood, instead with the 15th overall pick at Bridgestone Arena.

The 18-year-old Wood spent his ninth-grade year living with Bedard, who was picked first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. The two also played spring hockey together for five years.

“I’m just kind of a regular guy,” said Wood, who said he plans to play next season with the University of Connecticut. “I love hockey. I love trying to get better. I’m just happy to be in this beautiful city.”

Another connection

If that wasn’t enough, the Predators showed the world how small the hockey world is when they drafted Wood’s former Vancouver Vipers teammate, defenseman Tanner Molendyk, 24th overall with their second first-round pick.

The pick didn’t come without some awkwardness.

Former Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and Predators captain Roman Josi announced the pick outside Bridgestone Arena, only Rinne mispronounced Molendyk’s last name. The two later shared a laugh, with Rinne apologizing


“Total blackout,” Rinne said.

“I kind of knew it was going to come with whoever had my name,” Molendyk said. “You hear it everywhere getting messed up.”

Molendyk, pronounced MOHLEN-dighk, could relate to Rinne, though. He said his memory went a bit fuzzy once his name misannounced.


“I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember even walking down the stairs,” he said. “I was shaking. This place is awesome. Just walking around and seeing all the people singing and all the people screaming every night. It seems like a lot of fun.”

Youth gone wild

Wood, who was the youngest player in college last season, had 11 goals and 24 assists for UConn. The 6-foot-4, 197-pound right wing had 45 goals and 40 assists in 46 games the season before with the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League.

He said he plans to return to college next season but also plans to attend the Predators’ development camp, which begins Saturday.


“He’s a goal-scorer, he’s got size, and that’s what we really wanted,” retiring Predators general manager David Poile said. “I like to take a chance on somebody who is 6-foot-4 and going to be over 200 pounds. We have a good vision of how he should look in three or four years.”

Wood said he was honored to have Poile call his name in his final NHL Draft.

“It’s super special,” Wood said. “He’s had a really special career. That was a moment I’m never going to forget.”

Need for speed

The 18-year-old Molendyk, too, won’t forget having two Predators legends team up to announce his selection — mispronunciation or not.


“That’s pretty sweet,” he said. “You don’t get that every day. You don’t get guys like Josi and Rinne to do that. That’s pretty cool.”

Molendyk, a 6-foot, 180-pound 18-year-old, has played the last three seasons for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. Known for his speed, Molendyk had 12 goals and 43 assists in 139 career games with the Blades.

He’s heard all the talk about his lack of size, something he says his speed and feet make up for.

“You always hear, ‘He’s a little guy; he’s not the biggest dude,” he said. “So yeah, just use my feet.”


He said the player he’s most excited to play against if he eventually makes it to the NHL is the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid.

“I don’t know if I want to get roasted by that speed,” he said.

Did he and Wood plan to celebrate together Wednesday night?

“Maybe,” he said. “Could be a possibility.”

BIG DEAL: Connor Bedard is NHL’s next big thing. But he was just a kid again in Nashville ahead of 2023 draft

WATCH: The conversion: Watch Bridgestone Arena go from 2023 NHL Awards to NHL Draft in 25 seconds

REPORT CARD: Nashville Predators NHL Draft grades: Matthew Wood, Tanner Molendyk in first round

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: How Nashville Predators’ 2023 NHL Draft haul leads back to Connor Bedard

Source: Yahoo Sports


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