Nashville, Tenn. (June 28, 2023) – The Nashville Predators made two selections in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft – hosted in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena – on Wednesday, taking forward Matthew Wood with the 15th overall pick and defenseman Tanner Molendyk with the 24th overall pick.
“Right now, we’re trying to get assets and players that we can envision on our team in two or three years,” Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile said. “We got our goal scoring and size with our first pick, and we got our skating and speed with our second pick. We’re looking for ingredients.”
“As I’ve said before, when you’re coaching in the National Hockey League, you’re looking at guys who have impact,” incoming Predators General Manager Barry Trotz said. “Both of these players have outstanding quality. Where they were on our list is exactly where we thought we might have gotten them.”
Wood, 18 (2/6/05), was the No. 4-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s pre-draft rankings and is coming off a freshman season at the University of Connecticut in which he led his team in points with 34 (11g-23a). The 6-foot-4, 197-pound forward was the youngest player in the NCAA in 2022-23 and earned a spot on Hockey East’s All-Rookie Team. Wood also recorded seven multi-point contests and found the scoresheet in 25 of his 35 appearances, closing out his season with points in 14 of his final 15 games (5g-14a). Internationally, Wood – who was born in Lethbridge, Alta., but resides in Nanaimo, B.C. – represented Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he won gold after producing five points (2g-3a) in five games; he also earned bronze at the 2023 U-18 World Championship, leading Canada in goals (7) and finishing second in points (13). Wood joined UConn following two seasons with the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies, winning the Brett Hull Trophy as rookie of the year in 2021-22 after leading the league in goals (45) and points (85).
“He’s a big body who is growing into his frame,” Poile said. “He’s a goal scorer and he’s got size, and that’s something we really wanted. We were fortunate to get a player like Matthew at 15th overall who we rated very high heading into the draft.”
Molendyk, 18 (2/3/05), established WHL career highs in games played (67), goals (9), assists (28) and points (37) with Saskatoon in 2022-23, helping lead his team to the Eastern Conference Final. The 5-foot-11, 181-pound blueliner added three goals and five assists in 18 postseason games, sharing the lead for goals and finishing second and tied for second in points and assists, respectively, among WHL defensemen. Molendyk also was second on the Blades and 10th among WHL skaters in his position in plus-minus at +31, a career high. At the international level, the McBride, B.C., native won gold with Wood at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he had the third-most points (4) and assists (3) by a Canadian defenseman at the tournament.
“He improved all season long and got higher and higher on our list with more and more interest,” Poile said. “Every meeting I attended this year, his name was brought up strongly. He can really skate – that’s what stands out.”
Rounds 2-7 of the 2023 NHL Draft continue Thursday morning at 10 a.m. CT with the Predators holding 11 selections: No. 46 (second round); No. 47 (second round); No. 68 (third round); No. 79 (third round); No. 83 (third round); No. 111 (fourth round); No. 115 (fourth round); No. 121 (fourth round); No. 143 (fifth round); No. 147 (fifth round); and No. 175 (sixth round).