Stephen Wood‘s collegiate career at Providence College came to an end on March 13, when his Friars were eliminated from the first round of the Hockey East playoffs by New Hampshire.
One week later, the undrafted 22-year-old signed an amateur tryout contract with the Flyers and immediately joined the roster of the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms.
To this point, the 6-3, 210-pound rearguard has appeared in four games for the Phantoms. He has not registered a point, but has played very well while being paired with fellow rookie Freddy Meyer.
The Flyers have high hopes for Wood, whose performance with the Phantoms down the stretch and in the playoffs will go a long way in establishing his standing as a prospect within the organization.
Hockey’s Future met up with Wood following a recent Phantoms practice.
HF: How old were you when you began playing hockey and how did your involvement in the sport begin?
SW: I was about two or three when I first put skates on, and a couple years after that I was playing in an organized league. I got involved with the sport because my older brother Douglas played and I pretty much followed him and did whatever he did when I was younger.
HF: Who were your early hockey influences? Were you a Boston Bruins fan while growing up in New England?
SW: As I said, I followed what my brother did when I was younger and he played hockey and continued to play at Boston University. When I watched him play on to the professional level, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Growing up watching the Bruins, I also loved Cam Neely. He played tough and scored goals. It was the perfect mixture.
HF: You played your high school hockey at the prestigious Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts. How did the program there prepare you for your eventual NCAA career?
SW: As far as the hockey goes, it was a rather big jump from high school hockey to college hockey. Playing juniors was kind of the middle step that I choose not to take. Lawrence Academy prepared me well for the social and academic areas. With study hall and classes, there really wasn’t much of a difference.
HF: Your collegiate career came to an end earlier this month when Providence was eliminated from the Hockey East playoffs. How would you define your four years with the Friars and your college experience in general?
SW: In college, I really developed a lot of my game. Before college, I never worried about playing defense and was never really taught properly how to do so. But, in college, it became a necessity. In order to get the ice time that I wanted, I needed to focus on playing in the defensive zone. As the years went by, I got better and better in defensive situations and that turned into offensive chances.
HF: How did your signing with the Flyers come about? Did the team contact you, or vice versa?
SW: I believe that the Flyers were in contact with my family advisor, who had been talking with the Flyers all during my college career, but mostly during my senior year. As soon as my season was over, they began to work on a contract.
HF: You bring with you a reputation as a solid offensive defenseman. How would you describe your game and what do you feel you can offer the Flyers organization in both the short and long term?
SW: I believe that I can create offensive chances by joining the rush and making good decisions on our breakout. I like to get up into the play, it gets me into the game and then I feel productive. I think that I will bring a good work ethic to every game and, hopefully, help the Phantoms continue to win games.
HF: What are the aspects of your game that need the most improvement at this point? What do you need to work on most?
SW: I need to continue to work on my game without the puck in the defensive zone. If you can play without the puck correctly, then you can play in any league, so that is something that I really concentrate on in practice and continue to try and improve.
HF: You have appeared in three games with the Phantoms to this point. What are your initial impressions of the professional game, and the AHL in particular?
SW: What I realize right off the bat is the speed and size of the players. Last season, I was playing against younger guys, but now there are all strong guys who can play the game at the top level. There are also a few rules changes that I have had to get used to, like the two line pass. But, nothing else that’s too major.
HF: Since joining the team, you’ve been paired mostly with Freddy Meyer. Talk about the chemistry the two of you have developed.
SW: I know Freddy a little bit from playing against each other when we were younger and then in college again. He is a good guy to be paired with because he is a good player and has played in all situations. So, he can really help me in the learning process of the league.
HF: The Phantoms look to be in strong shape as the regular season winds down. You’ve only been around the team for a week or so, but what do you see as the key to a successful playoff run?
SW: Guys on the team work really hard and come to the rink on game day focused and ready to play. If we can continue this type of work ethic and will to win then I see the Phantoms going deep in the playoffs, and I am very excited to be a part of it.