by Nick Nollenberger | AHL On The Beat
When Kyle Wood got a call this summer from Steve Sullivan, assistant general manager of the Arizona Coyotes, he knew something was up. In part, because he’d received a similar call a couple of years before.
Sullivan was calling to inform Wood that he had been traded to the San Jose Sharks and he thanked him for everything he’d done for the organization over the last two-plus years. Wood would later get a call from Sharks assistant general manager Joe Will, welcoming him to San Jose.
Wood was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round (84th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft but before he ever participated in a development camp or training camp with the Avs, he was traded to Arizona in a deal that included former Shark Mikkel Boedker.
So Wood wasn’t new to this trade thing, but this time around it was a bit harder. He’d built relationships and immersed himself in the Southern Arizona community as a member of the Tucson Roadrunners, and he envisioned himself reaching the pinnacle of the sport in a Coyotes sweater.
“I really enjoyed my time in Tucson. I liked the guys and the organization treated me great, but it’s nice to get a fresh start,” said Wood.
After the initial shock of the trade wore off and after he spoke to Will, the 22-year-old was optimistic and excited about his new adventure in San Jose.
“The coaching staff obviously wants me here and the organization has been great,” said Wood. “Ever since camp they’ve been very welcoming and it’s been a lot of fun getting off to this type of start.”
Two years ago, Wood was a rising star in the AHL, earning mid-season All-Star honors along with being named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team. Wood even won the hardest shot competition at the All-Star Classic when he hit 99.6 miles per hour on the radar gun. Wood finished 2016-17 with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists), good for third in points, tied for first in goals and fourth in assists among all AHL rookie defensemen.
In 2017-18, with a new coach in Tucson and decreased role, Wood fell a bit out of favor, appearing in just 49 games and totaling 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) and a plus-12 rating.
When the trade went through, the Waterloo, Ontario, native saw a fresh start and a new opportunity, and felt a renewed sense of optimism.
So far, the new surroundings have already paid big dividends as Wood has already surpassed all his offensive totals from a year ago in eight fewer games. The third-year pro leads the San Jose Barracuda in plus/minus (+19) and ranks second on the team in assists (21), fifth in points (25) and first in power-play assists (seven).
In addition, Wood has been used in all situations — including as a penalty killer on one of the AHL’s best units.
“He’s doing all the little things and it’s making him successful,” said Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer. “His game has really improved as far as killing plays in his own end, ending plays early and getting pucks up ice from his own end. Plus, he’s done a great job putting pucks on net and using his skill set.”
In an organization laden with star blueliners, Wood has something that no one else in San Jose has: a monstrous frame. Wood is the largest player in the entire Sharks organization at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds.
“It’s usually always a good thing for a player to get dealt when things haven’t gone the way they wanted to with the previous organization; look at Francis Perron,” said Sommer. “It’s the same thing for Woody, he needed to hit the refresh button.”
“You never know how a place is going to be until you get there and ever since camp it has been awesome,” said Wood. “Getting to know these guys and the staff has been a great experience so far.”
Wood is one of only four players on the Barracuda roster to have played in every game this year, and the only defenseman to do so. His reliability in all three zones and all phases has played a huge role in San Jose getting off to its best start (through 41 games) in franchise history.
In addition, Wood has taken a leadership role this season for the first time in his career, donning an “A” throughout the season.
As the Barracuda continue to push for a playoff spot, Wood will be relied on as he has been all year to provide a multitude of services for San Jose, and the blueliner seems poised to take on that challenge.