photo courtesy Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds
Getting injured during your draft year is always a tough blow for a WHL player. It’s even tougher the closer you get to the end of your team’s season. You really want to impress the scouts every chance you get and to lose those opportunities can be a rough blow. Seattle Thunderbirds’ forward Matthew Wedman is rolling with that blow though and keeping a positive attitude.
“It happens and injuries happen. I will just have to bounce back and continue with what I was doing.”
The timing was brutal for Wedman, who jumped into a bigger role with the absence of fellow centres Alexander True and Mathew Barzal at the U-20 World Junior Championships and Scott Eansor to an injury. He was just coming into his own offensively with three points in three games after going pointless over 11 straight. Wedman recognized the opportunity given to him to him and was relishing it.
“It was nice to work on that offensive side of the game more. As a third-liner you have to play the more physical, fore-checking role. It was a nice change to pick up the offensive side and try to work on that.”
Then on a routine play during a game with the Spokane Chiefs, disaster struck.
“It was a battle in the corner, I fell and my knee hyper-flexed and twisted at the same time. It was just not a great situation there.”
Wedman expects to be back for the end of the season and what is expected to be a long playoff run for his Thunderbirds. Currently he is still listed as out week-to-week with his knee injury.
The Edmonton, Alberta native has been mostly playing a checking line role this year and that has translated to four goals and 13 assists for 17 points in 40 games. Wedman’s growth this year though has been in his own end. He has a couple teammates he is learning a lot from in that role.
“(Scott)Eansor and (Alexander) True are really good in the d-zone. They are really good to play against in practice and I learn a lot from them.”
Wedman learned a lot from his 70 regular season and 18 playoff games he participated in last season as a 16-year-old.
“I just tried to take everything in. I watched the (Mathew )Barzal, (Ryan)Gropp and (Keegan)Kolesar line really good to see how they play the game. In the offensive zone… to watch those guys they are just unreal.”
More than just game play, the veteran Thunderbirds taught him the day-to-day keys to winning as well.
“I learned what it takes to be successful in this league. I tried to watch everybody in practice and games and just take that in.”
While he had just one playoff goal, it was one of the more memorable goals in franchise history. He scored a double-overtime goal at home in game-four of the Western Conference final eliminating the Kelowna Rockets and handing Seatttle their second birth ever in the WHL final.
“I didn’t play in the third period of that game and I finally got out with about 10 minutes left in the second overtime. I just knew all the guys out there were gassed and I hadn’t played for awhile. I just took my opportunity and seized it.”
In even choosing to come to Seattle and the WHL in the first place, Wedman was one of the more informed players out there. His oldest brother Cole played three years on the blue line of the Spokane Chiefs and his other brother is currently playing for Cornell University.
“They both gave me the pros and cons of each (the WHL and NCAA). I think that I was drawn to the WHL because the level of play is so high. I really liked that.”
Matthew just missed getting to play against Cole in the WHL.
“My brother quit his 20-year-old year. I would’ve played against him at the preseason tournament.”
He did get to visit his brother a couple of times in Spokane and see more of what the WHL had to offer.
Though he is still fighting for playing time on an extremely talented team this year, Seattle’s coaches know that if they need a big goal in a big spot, they have a clutch player in their young centre.