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Nobles' Wood refocuses after WJC experience

1/15/2015

DEDHAM, Mass. – Spend a few of minutes with Miles Wood and you realize how much this kid gets it.

Still a teenager, Wood has already accomplished more than most during this point of his life.The past couple of years alone have been nothing short of a whirlwind adventure for the Noble and Greenough senior hockey star.

In 2013, he was selected in the fourth round by the New Jersey Devils in the NHL Draft. That was soon followed by his commitment to play at Boston College next season, after decommitting from Brown University, his initial choice.

Things continued to flourish for the left winger this past December when it was announced that he had been chosen to play for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championships, making him the first prep/high school player to be selected by Team USA to the WJC since Massachusetts native Tom Poti (Cushing Academy) in 1996.

Initially, Wood (6-foot-2, 195 pounds), did not receive an invite to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp this past summer at Lake Placid due in part to him deciding to return Nobles and not leave early for BC. But USA Hockey still continued to monitor his progress. A couple of weeks into his final season at Nobles, Wood was offered a tryout in which he didn't disappoint by earning a roster spot.

Following last year, Wood had planned on moving to The Heights. But on the advice of his parents, Randy and Cheryl, he was strongly urged to remain at Nobles for one more year and graduate, which he will do this spring.

Ironically, his father took a similar path just starting out. Randy Wood played four years at Phillips Andover Academy before spending four years at Yale. He then went on to have a successful 11-year career in the NHL with the Islanders, Sabres, Maple Leafs and Stars.

"When I decommitted from Brown I thought I would head into college a little sooner," said Wood. "But at the end of day, staying here for another year is only going to help me. It is one more year for me to get stronger. My game is not perfect so there are things I can do here that can help my hockey sense that college wouldn't do. It's good to work on the small things here and hopefully next year I'll go to BC with a stronger season then if I had done it a year earlier."

The opportunity to play with and against some of best young hockey talent in the world was a thrill of a lifetime for the 19-year-old, not to mention the learning experience he had gained.

"It was good for me to see what world competition was like," Wood said. "Not just seeing kids from the United States but kids from Sweden, Finland, Canada, et cetera, and to see where your game is as compared to where their game is.

“It was good to see what I need to work on, what my strengths are and just continue building off of that experience. My teammate Jack Eichel told me I was here because the coaches wanted me here. I wasn't here because I was a prep school kid. I'm here because the coaches have a trust in me and that I could help them win a gold medal. It was really good to hear that from someone like him."

At the WJC, the U.S. came up short in its bid for gold, finishing fourth after being eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinal round.

Highly regarded as a superior skater and his ability to put pucks into the back of the net, Wood says he wasn't selected by Team USA to score goals.

"I knew going into the tryouts I had to be more of a defensive player and a person they could trust out on the ice,'' he said. "I had to do the small things during camp because they had the Jack Eichels and Dylan Larkins to score goals. But they didn't really have that person to be tough around the puck or be tough in the corners.

“So I knew in order for me to make the team I needed to switch my role and not be the goal-scorer that I am [at Nobles]. Going into it, the coaches really had no idea who I was so it was good for me to go out and prove something to them."

When Wood came to Nobles in 2012, early reports listed him as an individual type of player. But under the tutelage of 14-year Bulldogs coach Brian Day, Wood has managed to transform his game, becoming more of a multi-faceted player.

"He is a kid who has grown tremendously since he has been with us," said Day. "He was certainly much more of a soloist when he first arrived here. He has always been a great skater and always had a good shot. He generated mostly off of people getting him the puck but now, he has learned to develop on how to incorporate everyone in the offense. He has grown to be a player who makes everyone around him better.

Wood added, "For the three years I have been here, Coach Day has taken my game from being a solo guy to a kid who can compete at the Worlds. A lot of my talent has been built through my three years here. It also shows that it doesn't matter where you play.”

He admits his decision to part ways with Brown was difficult. Had he opted to follow through on his commitment, it would have given him the opportunity to play alongside older brother Tyler, a sophomore defenseman with the Bears.

"I just didn't think it would be the right fit for me school-wise and hockey-wise," Wood explained. "It was obviously tough because Tyler was there. But I didn't want it to have an effect on him. It was good that I decommitted early enough where the Brown coaches could find a new player.

“The draw that I first had in wanting to go there was to play with Tyler. But as it got down to the nuts and bolts I just didn't feel it would be a good fit and I just had to move on from there."

As stellar a player that he is, one would probably have you believe Wood is a rink rat that spends a majority of his time and life on the ice.

On the contrary. Wood says his parents have instilled into him that the world does not revolve around the sport of hockey.

"It is nice to have parents that aren't so one-way with hockey," he said. "My father isn't just a parent to me in the hockey world but he is a parent to me when comes to school and life. It is good to have that person where you can call him up and talk about life and not always about hockey. He always tells me to step away from the game, to have fun and enjoy myself. As long as I'm happy it doesn't matter where I am because I know both of my parents will be happy for me no matter what."

Wood says once the season ends at Nobles, he will not lace up his skates again until he begins fall camp at BC. Wood said he only spends approximately five months out of the year playing hockey for a reason.

"You see some kids that are hockey, hockey, hockey 12 months out of the year," said Wood. "By the time they hit high school they are burnt out. I feel for those kids."

What lies ahead for Wood remains the million dollar question. Without a doubt, he is talented enough to excel at the collegiate level and potentially the pro level. But the work ethic can never falter.

"The opportunities are there for him but he realizes he needs to continue to get better," Day said. "As long as he does that then he'll reach his goals. Where he is right now and having these opportunities in front of him doesn't mean a thing unless he goes out and puts in the time and effort to pursue those goals. I think he is committed in doing that."

But first things first. Right now, the only thing on Wood's mind is helping Nobles try to win a second consecutive ISL title.

Last season, Wood was a prime contributor throughout the Bulldogs' championship run, having scored 29 goals and registering 25 assists. Nobles, which also carries a few other Division 1 commits – including Yale commits Billy Sweezey and Luke Stevens and Brown’s Mike Fahie – is 9-3-1 after Wednesday night’s win over Lawrence Academy.

"If you start looking too far ahead, then you start losing sight in where you are today," Wood added. "I think this whole thing of me staying back for one more year of prep school has taught me how to be patient and that is the best way to go about things. You don't go from point A to point B without enjoying the time between.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have had the chances I have had in hockey but for me it is all about today. For us to win our league again, it has been a goal for the entire team. I think talent-wise we have grown as a team here and this team is very strong. But we are just taking it day-by-day and practice by practice. That's all you can do."