Spokane Chiefs forward Riley Woods may never be the flashiest player on the ice, but by making his teammates better and leading by example, he’s the kind of player that coaches love.
Woods, a 19-year-old winger acquired from the Regina Pats a year ago at the trade deadline, is quietly putting up solid numbers this season, with 20 goals and 23 assists through 52 games. And just as importantly, he’s a plus-15 skating on a line with NHL draft picks Hudson Elynuik and Zach Fischer.
“I’m a big detail guy,” he said. “I work hard every day at the little things that make me better. I don’t need to be a hero; I just want to get the job done.”
Woods has added 20 pounds to his 5-foot-10 frame since his rookie season in Regina, and credits increased strength and quickness with a big improvement in his game.
“I get to the puck faster and am able to hold onto it longer,” he said. “I’ve also really made an effort this season to play better defense in our end. Coach always says that defense creates offense, and our line works hard at that.”
Last season’s trade came as a surprise to Woods, who grew up in Regina, but he says now that it’s the best thing that could have happened to him. He hadn’t been playing a lot, he said, so the move to Spokane presented a big opportunity to him.
The key to a successful transition, he said, was believing in himself even when things weren’t going his way.
“It was a challenge to stay confident,” he said. “That’s the biggest obstacle when you’re not playing much, but even before the trade I always tried to do a little extra in practice to improve. That has helped me not only to be a better player, but a better person. And I knew that Spokane needed a speedy left-winger, so it was a great fit for me.”
Woods is excited about the Chiefs’ possibilities as the season winds down in the super-competitive Western Conference, but he doesn’t feel that the team needs to make any big adjustments during the last month of the regular season.
“At the end, it will all come down to which teams want to make the playoffs more. One of the highlights of my WHL career was making the playoffs as a 17-year-old, and I want to get there again.”
Spokane Chiefs Education Advisor Joe Everson works with all Chiefs players, from those still in high school to those pursuing a post-secondary education or preparing to do so following their WHL career. He helped lead the Chiefs to the WHL’s Scholastic Team of the Year Award for the 2015-16 season. Throughout each season, Everson will profile individual Chiefs to provide insight into their lives, their mindset and their goals for the future.