Miles Wood is a somewhat popular player on the New Jersey Devils. There are several supporters of the winger among the People Who Matter. Rarely does a Devils broadcast on MSG or its additional channels goes by without someone - usually Ken Daneyko - praising Wood for his energy, for his “character,” for his grit and some such. Wood can go real fast in a straight line when he is chasing down a puck. And, believe it or not, Wood is one of the “elder statesmen” of the team. While other players are older, the 27-year old joins Damon Severson as someone who has spent a long time in the organization as Wood was drafted in 2013 by the Devils in the fourth round. I get his appeal. I get that he has fans.
The problem is that Miles Wood is not very good at this level and it is time to spell out the very real issues in his game.
Why now? This is a pivotal season for Wood. He missed almost all of 2021-22 due to a hip injury. The Devils filed for arbitration and the two settled on a one-season deal worth $3.2 million. Wood is going to be an unrestricted free agent this Summer. If this season is a prove-it season for the Buffalo-native, then he is arguably coming up short. I would go as far as to say that he is one of the weaker parts of a 2022-23 Devils team that should have some legitimate aspirations after Game #82 this season. So much so that I do not want Wood to undercut them by, well, playing like this. I am writing this on Wednesday night and unless he has an amazing night against Seattle, I do not think there will be a lot of pushback to the points I am about to make. What is the matter with Miles Wood? Sadly, plenty.
Wood’s Season as of February 8, 2023
Let us go over Wood’s season so far. Miles Wood has appeared in 49 games with eight goals and 17 points per NHL.com. He averages 13:03 per game per NHL.com, which is primarily from playing in a bottom-six role in 5-on-5 hockey and getting minutes on the Devils’ second power play unit. This puts him right in between Nathan Bastian and Fabian Zetterlund in ice time per game on the Devils prior to the Seattle game. According to Natural Stat Trick, his most common forward teammates this season in 5-on-5 play is Michael McLeod with a whopping 350 minutes out of 601 and Bastian. The unit of McLeod, Wood, and Bastian has been dubbed the BMW Line since their fusion in the 56-game 2021 season and effectively have been re-united this season now that Wood is healthy and, after his own injury, Bastian has returned to the ice last month. This is enough to confirm that Wood is a bottom-six winger on the New Jersey Devils.
Wood’s own production is worth a closer look. Eight goals and 17 points in a bottom-six role does not seem too bad. However, these 17 points were all at even strength. Despite his 63:26 on a secondary power play unit, Wood has zero power play points. Further, Wood’s own point totals obscure the fact that Wood has been ice cold from a scoring stand-point since December 1, 2022. In 26 games played, Wood has two goals and four assists. This is one point fewer than McLeod and Ondrej Palat, who returned from a significant groin injury and put up 7 points in 12 games. This is one point more than Fabian Zetterlund’s five in 19 games. Zetterlund was not injured, he was scratched for not producing enough. Wood did score on January 27, 2023 in Dallas to end a long goal drought after December 13, 2022. That’s good. What is not good is the fact that Wood has yet to register an assist since the January 4 game in Detroit and so that goal was his first point in 10 games.
The bulk of his eight goals and 17 points goes back to a stretch where he put up five goals and eight points in a six-game run from October 30, 2022 to November 10, 2022. Crucial in the comeback win in Edmonton on November 3, 2022, sure. But since then, Wood has not found his way on the scoresheet despite regular minutes on a team that has scored a healthy amount of goals. If part of his appeal is that Wood can chip in goals and points, then he has really not done a lot of that for two months and counting now.
Wood Shoots the Puck Everywhere
This is even more concerning given how much Wood shoots the puck. Wood shoots the puck a lot. Wood is fifth on the Devils in shots on net this season with 120. In terms of raw shooting attempts, Wood is also fifth with 194. He has more shots on net and shot attempts than Erik Haula, Tomas Tatar, Dawson Mercer, and Yegor Sharangovich among others. He has double the shots of his consistent linemate, McLeod. With eight goals, Wood has a shooting percentage of 6.7%. That is not high but also not a far cry from past seasons. Such as his 2018-19 campaign where he had a 6.3% shooting percentage. Or a 7.62% in his rookie season or a 7.8% in his 2019-20 season. The 17-goal season he put up in 2021 was the abberation as he fired them in at a rate of 13.4%. It could be argued from this perspective that he has been unlucky.
I can agree with that to a point. After all, the expected goal model at Natural Stat Trick has him at 11.29 xG and he has 8 actual goals. The issue I have is that Wood does not seem to know the difference between a good or a bad shot to take. Here is a heat map of Wood’s shot attempts this season from Moneypuck.
Wood can and does get to the front of the net as indicated by the red zone in front of the crease. He has 60 individual high danger attempts, which is fourth most on the team and that is a good thing, per Natural Stat Trick.
This issue is illustrated by all of the blue dots, well, everywhere else in the zone. Those are all shooting attempts that Wood has taken and they are just everywhere. I cannot understand who wants to see Wood throw up pucks from behind the circles or the points or even the goal line. His shot is not so strong that he is a threat from above the dots even in the circles. This kind of map is defendable if you are The Big Deal, who has scored goals (plural) this season off goalies’ heads. Not so much for Miles Wood, who just has this tendency to just grip and rip when he thinks he has space.
This is even more annoying when he does this without support. Because Wood is typically streaking into the offensive zone, he has to either wait at the blueline for the Devils to go onside or charge ahead with or chasing a puck. If Wood wins it, then he seemingly prefers to fire a shot on net instead of waiting for a teammate like McLeod, Bastian, or someone else to get into the zone. Instead of looking for a pass to set up a more dangerous shot or even waiting for a teammate to get to the front of the net for a potential screen or rebound, Wood is just jacking up pucks. This limits not only his production but his overall contribution to the Devils’ offense. Assuming the puck even gets on net, which it does about 62% of the time.
This is not just an issue with this season. Look at his heat maps from 2021, 2019-20, and 2018-19 from Moneypuck and you will see a whole lot of blue all over the rink. Getting to the net makes sense for Wood, but he really should not be firing any attempts from much distance. Yet, he has done so tens of times in past seasons.
If Wood were to be a bit more patient and judicious with his shot selection, then he could have had more production. Or at least have more of his shifts be favorable. Or get his linemates more involved. Because that is another glaring issue with Wood’s game.
Miles Wood is a One-Way Player - And Is Often Forced to Play Against It
The New Jersey Devils were crushing it this season in 5-on-5 play until January hit. The past month was not good for the on-ice rates of the team. The effect this has had on everyone’s on-ice rate stats for the season is that several went down to Earth. Still, the majority of the team’s regulars have been positive. The exceptions in three letters: BMW.
Among the regular Devils (200 minutes minimum) at Natural Stat Trick, Wood is near the bottom or dead last in terms of Corsi Against rate (63.93), Shots Against rate (30.95), Expected Goals Against rate (3.08), Scoring Chances Against rate (32.02), and High Danger Chances Against rate (12.27). As such, he is below 50% in terms of Corsi, expected goals, and scoring chances. This is data that supports that Wood - and the Devils - are forced to play a lot of defense when he is on the ice.
What has been Wood’s saving grace in 5-on-5 play has been the guys who make saves. When Wood is on the ice, the Devils’ goaltenders have stopped 93.79% of all shots against. That is the fifth highest save percentage on the team and a really high one in general. It explains why Wood has not witnessed a lot of goals against despite being witness to a load of attempts, shots, and scoring chances against his team that could lead to a lot of goals against.
And anyone who actually watches Miles Wood play will tell you - even without these numbers - that Wood is absolutely not helping out his goaltenders make saves at a very high rate. Wood may go wherever he wants in the offensive zone to attempt a shot on net. When the play is going the other way to the Devils’ end, Wood is suddenly not so fast and absolutely is not so hard working. Wood is frequently floating high up in the zone instead of going in deeper like McLeod or Bastian or even Zetterlund to support the defensemen. This is not helpful for the Devils. It definitely does not make the game easier for McLeod or Bastian, who are close to Wood in their on-ice rates in 5-on-5 play. And it does not make the game easier for Vitek Vanecek, Mackenzie Blackwood, or Akira Schmid, who have collectively ensured that Wood’s “effort” off the puck is not always costing the team on the scoreboard.
This also puts a big wrinkle into all of the praise Wood gets for being gritty and full of energy. Those players tend to “bring it” in all three zones. Maybe not all that well, but they try. Wood really does not do that in the defensive zone. The other two members of his line has to contribute. That does not seem very laudable to me. It certainly is not what you would expect from a hard-working bottom-six winger. I am not looking for someone to be good enough to kill penalties, but they have to be a million times more engaged that #44 usually is when the puck is in the Devils’ end of the rink. Which it usually has been this season as indicated by his on-ice rate stats.
And this is not just something only happening this season. Wood’s 5-on-5 on-ice rates have been frequently in the red throughout his career with some very high against rate stats here and there.
However, when the puck is launched ahead into space, Wood turns on the jets and flys at the puck. He is far more involved on offense. Not that efficiently or intelligently as indicated by the first issue. But there he is at least trying to do something. Even if he beats out an icing call and is often stuck behind the goal line with little option, he is putting in effort going forward. The backchecking, forget it. He was not doing it consistently much less consistently well when he was younger. I doubt he will figure it out by the time he is 28 for next season.
Miles Wood Takes Bad Calls
Miles Wood could be classified as a pest. He does draw a few more calls on average than he takes. In this season, he has taken 18 penalties and drawn 18 penalties. Being even in that regard is not bad. While he has yet to register a point on a power play this season, Wood getting his team to a man advantage 18 times is still a positive. The issue is that some of those 18 penalties were just plain bad ones to take and this is, again, consistent with his play in past seasons. This may be more subjective than anything else but here is a quick run down of Wood’s last few penalties:
- January 27, 2023 in Dallas - An offensive zone trip of Jamie Benn because Benn was about to skate ahead of Wood.
- January 14, 2023 at Los Angeles - A slash on Drew Doughty in the offensive zone. The Kings scored on the resulting power play. I thought it was a hook, but the call was a slash.
- January 10, 2023 at Carolina - Wood was in a puck battle with Dylan Coughlin and high-sticks him in the grill. Another offensive zone penalty.
- January 7, 2023 vs. Our Hated Rivals - Wood interfered with (read: hit away from the play) Braden Schneider. I cannot recall if this was offensive zone penalty.
- December 30, 2022 at Pittsburgh - Wood sent off for roughing Ryan Poehling. There was a scrum that Wood was not a part of. Wood came into it shove Poehling in the crease.
Sure, only five calls since the last game of 2022 is not bad for a fan of the “rough stuff” like Wood. And only one was punished. But goodness these were stupid then. At least three were offensive zone penalties. Wood’s prior two calls showed a lack of attention to the game. Four out of the five were just unnecessary and could have been avoided had Wood controlled his stick and just played with a clue for a moment.
This is, again, something Wood has been guilty of for a while now. It is not so much that Wood plays with such an edge that he just takes calls. He just does dumb things on the ice from time to time and referees catch him easily in doing them. Wood is absolutely capable of playing disciplined. Again, I had to go back to a 2022 game to cover his last five penalties. That is the frustration - he is capable but he does not always do it. That makes him a liability even if he is drawing as many calls as he takes.
By the way, Wood has just one major penalty this season. It came in the November 1, 2022 game in Vancouver where Wood fought Luke Schenn and Dakota Joshua got involved. All three played in Monday’s game without any issue or even a sign that it was a thing. So much for sending a message through fists. Or that those things mattered.
Miscellaneous Miles Wood Points
Here is a grab-bag of other Wood-related points that are not so much issues but they are worth highlighting since this whole post is explaining why Wood is not all that good of a player.
- Size: The Devils are not a big team - outside of the defense - and Wood is officially listed at 6’2” and 195 pounds. Assuming the official height and weight is accurate, Wood is not exactly standing alone at that frame. McLeod, Sharangovich, Siegenthaler, Severson, and Brendan Smith are all 6’2” and Wood only out-weighs McLeod by a mere five pounds. the other four are heavier than Wood. Further, the smallest Devil this season based on official measurements is Tomas Tatar, who stands at 5’10” and weighs 173 pounds. Tatar has not been hindered at all for his frame and his 751 NHL games backs that up. This is all to say that Wood is not massive and his own frame is not exactly a contributing factor. Take out Wood and the Devils’ size as a whole does not really change much. Not that it matters at all, but it is something Wood gets oddly lauded for.
- Fights: This was covered under penalties, but if you’re looking for a Devil to throw down, then Brendan Smith is the one you should be looking at this season as he has three. Wood’s other BMW linemates, McLeod and Bastian, each have two. Look elsewhere from #44 if you want fists.
- One-on-One with Goalies: Again, Wood can fly when he has a puck to chase down. Occasionally, he will be on the end of a long pass for a one-on-one opportunity with a goaltender. Does Wood finish those to help justify the speed and floating on defense to get said-long passes? No. The only goal he has this season like that was when he phased through David Jiricek in the blowout over Columbus. (Aside: A rare sighting of Wood below the dots on defense, but of course he is watching a puck battle and not noticing anyone around him. Good thing the Devils won it!) I am OK with Wood getting opportunities for those kinds of plays because they are good ones to generate. Wood is at least not flinging pucks from 30+ feet out on them. But he is basically like when Haula gets a one-on-one. Finishing it would be more of a surprise than an expectation.
Then there’s this, which comes from Amanda Stein when Wood decided to practice with a wooden stick:
Miles Wood said he took the wooden stick and tried to get a curve in the blade by using the blow torch.— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) November 30, 2022
He set the stick on fire.
Concluding Thoughts & Your Take
Miles Wood is being paid $3.2 million this season to be a bottom-six winger for the New Jersey Devils. He plays on a secondary power play unit and has no power play points. He has 17 points but most of that was before December 2022 as he has struggled to finish shots and make plays - which is consistent with past seasons. Wood continues to fire away from wherever he sees fit, which undercuts his own production as well as the offense of his line. That line is usually playing defense in 5-on-5 in spite of how much Wood is firing the puck. When they are playing in their own end, Wood is often caught floating on defense instead of being more active in even trying to help out. Despite a reputation for being physical, Wood is prone to taking lazy, unhelpful, and just plain bad penalties as indicated by most of his recent fouls. Those who think he is big is not really looking at the rest of the Devils. Those who think Wood throws down is not really paying attention. Those who think Wood can just finish those one-on-ones with goalies are hopeful and going to be disappointed. There is a lot more negative in Wood’s performances this season and in past season than there are positives - even for someone who just plays about 13 minutes per game.
The biggest point, and perhaps issue, is that the 2022-23 Miles Wood is very much like the Miles Wood we have seen in past seasons. Player development is not always linear. Some blossom later in life; think Blake Coleman. Some get to a level and they are just kind of there; think Kevin Rooney. Some are good enough to stick around as a regular player for several seasons - and yet they really do not change or get all that much better. I would put Wood in this category.
Wood did not become a better shooter when he scored 17 in 2021; his shooting percentage was hot for a 56-game season. Wood did not really defend or push the play forward when he was a rookie; and he really does not help on defense now or help push the play forward enough so he - and his teammates - do not need to play so much defense. Wood can be called a pest for how many calls he draws, but the ones he takes makes you wonder if he has a clue sometimes. Then you recall he took a blowtorch to a wooden stick without getting it wet first and was apparently surprised that the wooden stick caught on fire.
Miles Wood is 27 and he will turn 28 in September. He is who he is at this point. He is a bottom-six winger who can chip in points if he is fortunate enough to finish shots, he will take a lot of shots that will make you wonder what he is even seeing, he can skate hard and fast going forward but not so often in backchecking, he is a liability on defense, and he will take a heap of penalties along with drawing them. This is likely to continue whether he plays in Newark in the Fall or somewhere else.
What is the matter with Miles Wood? That he has been the same player for several seasons now who does not contribute as much as some would think or proclaim. He is a limited player this season, and that has been far more obvious without the production in recent weeks. This season is not a horribly unlucky one - go talk to Erik Haula for that. Or one where Wood is clearly showing signs from last season’s injury - he’s not, which is a big plus for Wood’s career. It is not likely he will change. Wood is who he is. That is that he is a very limited hockey player at this level.
I get why he has fans. I get why he gets lauded by Daneyko. I get the appeal when it is all going well. The last two months, I think, have opened up the eyes of many of the People Who Matter to what Wood is when it is not always going his way. And it has not been going his way since mid-November of this season. Important questions come up to mind: Is this a player the Devils should keep long term? Is this a player the Devils should keep in the short term? Is this a player the Devils can replace and for less than $3.2 million?
I think you know my answers based on this post. Now I want to know what you think. What do you make of Miles Wood? What do you think is the matter with him? Can someone salvage Wood’s game to be more effective, even when he is not chipping in points? What improvements can the Devils make to their bottom-six should they move on from Wood? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Miles Wood in the comments. Thank you for reading.