BOSTON – If you're looking for proof that you don't need to play major junior or college hockey to catch the eye of USA Hockey, look for further than forward Miles Wood.
The 19-year-old from Buffalo, N.Y., is in his last year of high school at Noble and Greenough School. This week he's spending four days at the USA Hockey evaluation camp on the campus of Boston University at Walter Brown Arena. Wood hopes to earn a spot on the United States National Junior Team, which will compete in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship later this month in Toronto and Montreal.
"My parents are strict on the school part of this whole thing," Wood said on why he's still in school. "But it doesn't matter where you play, just as long as you have the right mentality and you have that drive, no matter where you play, you will reach your goal."
After this year, Wood is committed to Boston College. Through four games this season at Noble and Greenough, Wood had three goals and eight points. Last season he had 29 goals and 53 points in 27 games.
U.S. coach Mark Osiecki admitted he didn't know much about Wood before the first practice on Tuesday. But Osiecki soon saw that Wood fit in.
"You see his size, just his physical stature is unbelievable. But his skating really, you notice," Osiecki said. "You wouldn't look at [Wood still being in prep school] at all. He jumped on the ice today and fit right in. So that's hats off to him."
At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Wood is already similarly built like his father Randy Wood, who played more than 700 games in the NHL and finished with 175 goals. The elder Wood is listed at 6 feet, 195 pounds, so clearly Miles Wood has someone to model his game after.
"My dad, he was big with speed and how hard he competed," Wood said. "We have highlights of him at home just skating around and scoring, and if I can have that and have that career, I'd be truly blessed. That's what I'm out here trying to do."
The first day of camp was a bit of a culture shock for Wood.
"You know it's definitely, the speed is a little faster. These guys are a lot stronger than high school players I play against," he said. "But I've just got to rely on my speed and my hockey sense. Just as long as I compete on the forecheck, back check, do all the small things well, hopefully I get my shot."
Wood, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round (No. 100) in 2013, didn't know anyone before he arrived at evaluation camp other than defenseman Steve Santini. The fellow Devils 2013 NHL Draft pick, who's already at Boston College, has helped ease Wood into the group.
"He's kind of taken me with him along this whole thing. [He said] just play your own game, have fun with it and soak it all in," Wood said.
Wood characterized his career path down the prep school route as "strange." So in addition to competing for a spot on the U.S. squad he's also trying to set a precedent for other players that might want to duplicate his route.
"You know it's all on the mental side of this whole thing. Just as long as you prepare yourself each and every day, it doesn't matter where you play, social media and stuff like that, they're going to know you just as long as you play your own game, play hard," he said. "It doesn't matter where you play. It just shows that USA is willing to step out of their comfort zone, take a chance on a high-school kid and hopefully I can show it doesn't matter where you play, just as long as you compete and play your hardest and things will work out for you."