Miles Wood's Unexpected Path to the Junior Team
A fourth-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2013, Noble & Greenough forward Miles Wood learned last spring that he would not be invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp, held each August in Lake Placid. The reason? He was returning to Nobles. And USA Hockey didn’t want to ‘waste’ a roster spot on a kid who would be going back to prep school. It was considered too big of a jump.
Last season, there had been talk of accelerating, which might have upped his chances for an invite.
“The whole acceleration idea came in when I decommitted from Brown, and BC and BU were my first choices,” says Wood. “I hoped to persuade my mom and dad. But they weren’t happy with the idea.”
“They were strict on me staying here and graduating,” Wood says. “It was mainly their thing. It meant a lot to them, so I stayed.”
“It was tough last spring,” he adds. “I wanted to go to BC so bad. But heading back here…well, it’s only nine months of my life. And it would give me one more year to get ready for college.”
Wood had always heard from his father, Randy Wood, who played four years at Phillips Andover, four years at Yale, and ten years in the NHL, that the path he was on was the right one. “His playing 4-4 has been instilled in me since I was a little kid, Miles says. “I never knew anything different.”
Randy, and Miles’ mother Cheryl, were steadfast in their belief. “I’ve always told my kids (Miles’ older brother, Tyler, is now a sophomore defenseman at Brown) that hockey is just a part of a journey that includes school. I always preached that hockey was a way to get into the best school possible.”
“Nobles has been great to my two boys and I’ve always believed that no matter where you play, if you’re good enough you will be found. I see kids leaving good schools to go play in the USHL and I say,’Why?’ I fail to understand that decision because, if you are good enough, they are going to find you. All the kids in prep school have to understand that there are college recruiters and NHL scouts at their games. And you never know who will be watching or when. This is a great area for players. The scouts all get a good idea on who to come back and see.”
“Playing on the National Junior Team or not playing on the National Junior Team should not be part of that decision,” Randy Wood adds. “You don’t sacrifice academics. You don’t give up Nobles for a chance to go to the National Camp. Still, I was disappointed that Miles didn’t get invited to Lake Placid. I didn’t feel like they were giving him a chance.”
Wood, then, was not among the 24 forwards who convened in Lake Placid in August. Of those who were there, eight had played the previous season in college, seven had played the previous season with the NTDP, five had played the previous season in major junior, and four had played the previous season in the USHL. No one had played the previous season in prep or high school, to say nothing of the upcoming one.
The decision also meant that, because Wood is a ’95 and in his last year of junior eligibility, that it would wipe out any chance of his ever playing for the U.S. National Junior Team.
“That was a tough pill to swallow,” says Miles. “But at the end of the day you look past it. If I hadn’t gotten picked it wouldn’t have stopped me from reaching my goals in hockey.”
Over the summer, Wood went to the New Jersey Devils rookie camp. In September, he got a call from his adviser, Peter Fish, who said USA Hockey would look at him through the fall and at the start of the prep season. Wood played fall hockey in the New England Prep League in Salem, NH, where USA Hockey and Ben Smith took their initial look.
Randy Wood says, “Ben Smith was a big advocate for Miles. He just gave him a chance, and let him see where he falls. I commend him for giving Miles a chance. I commend USA Hockey for stepping outside the box, outside their comfort zone, and saying, ‘This is the kind of player we need.’ ”
After the prep season began, Miles said, “They came to the St. Sebastian’s scrimmage and the Pomfret game. Two days after the Pomfret game I got a call from Jim Johannson who said, ‘We will offer you a spot in the tryout and we’ll see where that goes.’ I was surprised that they were actually going to take a chance on a prep school kid. I was thankful they stepped outside the box and gave me the opportunity.”
It can’t be emphasized enough how unusual Miles Wood making the final cut for the junior team was.
It had been 19 years since USA Hockey had taken a prep school kid to the World Juniors (in 1996, Cushing D Tom Poti was chosen). In 1997, the NTDP was founded, so it was au revoir to prep and high school players who, in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, were often represented on those teams. The U.S. squads performed abysmally, never, since the advent of their participation in 1977, finishing as high as fifth. But rostering high school and prep school players – there were some excellent ones -- was far from the reason those teams had no success. For one thing, USA Hockey put precious little in the way of resources into the team. For starters, scouting was non-existent by today’s standards, hence teams were structured haphazardly, i.e. they weren’t true ‘teams.’
But getting back to the subject at hand, Wood, who mainly played a grinding game and created space for his linemates was, unlike most of his teammates, new to wearing the USA uniform.
“Since the tournament is such a short time, you have to feel great about where your game is at heading in,” the Manchester, Mass. native says. “The first practice was weird – just getting used to the guys, the speed, players who were so much stronger and had hockey sense that was off the charts.”
“Then I started to meet the guys and get comfortable with the whole system. The moment I knew I had a chance was after the BU game.”
“As soon as we got to Canada I kept doing all the small things because I knew that to make the team I had to be tough on the puck and play well in the d-zone. They didn’t say, ‘Go out and score goals.’ I had to take a different role.”
“It was actually fun to take on a new role, to work for something. It was good to go out and earn a role. I just crashed the net, dug pucks out, and got pucks to the net. I just had to play my game and give it the best I could.”
Asked about the New Year’s Eve game against Canada game, Wood said, “It was the best game I ever played in in my life. Twenty-two thousand fans screaming ‘You stink.’ But I was all pumped up. I had no nervousness.”
At the start of the third period Wood was serving a slashing penalty. “I was sitting in the box and I glanced up at the stands. It made me grin staring up into the crowd, and seeing all that red, and the fans having such a great time. I thought, ‘It will be pretty cool to play this game for a while.’”
Now, back at Nobles, Wood said, “I’m still going to have the same mentality as before. My goal heading into the year was to win the league. Now that I’m back from the World Juniors, I still have that same goal. I’m just a normal high school kid playing the game I love. It won’t change my game at all.”
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North American Skaters
North American Skaters (Alphabetical)
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USPHL Winter Showcase Rosters
Here is the schedule:
USPHL Winter Schedule
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Here's the schedule:
USPHL Winter Showcase