Death, taxes… and Cody Wydo.
While the former are certainties, the Motor City Metal Jackets’ forward has been nearly as omnipresent this season, leading the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in goals (16), points (31) and plus-minus rating (plus-15) through 15 games.
Wydo gives as good as he gets, too. His 15 assists are tied for sixth in the league, and he already has seven power-play helpers to his credit.
As astonishing as Wydo’s raw numbers are, the consistency of his production may be even more so. The Wyandotte, Mich. native has found his way onto the scoresheet in 14 of the Metal Jackets’ 15 outings. He’s scored goals in 12 of those 15, and already has eight multiple-point contests on the books.
During one mid-October weekend series at Port Huron, Wydo combusted for 10 points and a plus-8 rating, including seven points (five assists) in the series finale.
“He’s put his time and work in,” said Jackets head coach David Cole. “He’s an intelligent athlete and an intelligent student, and this is part of the natural development process for him.
“He made the jump from Midget hockey to Junior A and was very productive, so I guess we’re not totally surprised or anything. It’s not as if a light suddenly went on for him. He’s everything you could want, on and off the ice; he’s quiet, humble, works hard and is a team player.”
Ironically, much of what makes Wydo an effective team player doesn’t show up on the scoresheet. His commitment to defensive- and neutral-zone play has made him a well-rounded player, Cole says.
“Cody’s a dependable player in any situation,” he explained. “He sees the ice very well, and he’s definitely bought into defensive hockey first. He looks after his own end and plays in all situations - power play, penalty kill, even strength.”
According to Wydo, who fashioned an 18-goal, 24-assist rookie campaign in 2009-10, his natural proclivity for putting puck to twine is the direct result of a few battered garage doors.
“There isn’t some kind of magic formula,” offered Wydo, who got into hockey with his brother at age 4. “Just me and my dad and my grandpa outside shooting puck after puck after puck out in the driveway. And I may have left my mark on a few doors and gotten into trouble a couple times.”
Wydo credits his leap from front-line player to league standard-bearer to an increased dryland regimen, and the good fortune of playing with a talented crew.
“I trained hard with a trainer all summer, and came into the season in top physical condition,” he explained. “And I’m also on a line with two top-10 scorers as well in R.J. Kleiman and Steve Brancheau. We move the puck pretty well as a team, and end up getting a lot of back-door open opportunities because of the puck movement.”
Motor City, which is coming off a North Division playoff berth in just its second season, is seeking an even higher postseason station this year. Cole says the defense-first philosophy, coupled with the club’s considerable offensive capability (second in the NAHL at 4.53 goals per game), is a recipe for success.
“We have to continue to be committed to the team game and not concern ourselves with individual goals,” Cole opined. “We have three goaltenders and we’re looking for one or two of them to step up behind a team that plays with the defensive mindset. We take the season and divide it into five-game segments and play a series of best-of-fives. We certainly can’t look too far ahead, not in this division.”
Meanwhile Wydo, who graduated from Southgate Anderson High School with a 3.5 GPA and plans to study business management while playing Division I college hockey, gets to help the Jackets chase the Robertson Cup from the comforts of home.
“Getting to play junior hockey and sleep in your own bed is pretty great,” he admitted. “And being so close to home, I continue to get a lot of support from family and friends. I’m grateful for that.”
He also says he’ll continue to ply his trade at both ends of the ice, and whatever goals that leave his stick are merely the residue of own-end toil.
“I’ll just keep trying to play good two-way hockey. It’s not all about scoring. Playing defense well is what leads to scoring chances, and if we can continue to do that, the success will continue to follow.”
NORTH DIVISION NOTEBOOK
CHICAGO HITMEN: James Albrecht had a goal on Friday in the Hitmen’s first-ever visit to St. Louis, giving the Geneva, Ill., product 13 points in his preceding eight games. Likewise, Louis Educate assisted on the marker, making it 14 points over nine outings for the Libertyville, Ill., native. When Chicago was blanked on Saturday, it marked just the fourth time this year that either went without a point.
JANESVILLE JETS: Despite being idle for Halloween weekend, the Jets remained entrenched in second place in the North Division, six points behind St. Louis. Those teams will clash at Janesville Arena twice this weekend. Defenseman Alex Brooks and forward Derek Jacobson lead the Jets with 14 points each.
MICHIGAN WARRIORS: Brad Chapman scored twice, and Andrew Kolb struck late to give the Warriors a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind victory on Friday at Perani Arena. Chapman’s first cut Michigan’s deficit to 3-2 heading into the third period, then he knotted the affair with 2:33 to play. Kolb capped the comeback with just 12 seconds on the clock.
PORT HURON FIGHTING FALCONS: Jackson Bray had a stellar weekend for the Falcons, scoring once and assisting on two other goals as Port Huron churned out five scores at Traverse City. The Chicagoland native doubled his season point total in the contest, and tied captain Ryan Green for the team lead with three goals.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: A trio of late goals gave Springfield an exciting 5-3 victory against interdivisional foe Topeka at the Nelson Center on Friday. Chris Sitler bagged an equalizing power-play marker with 6:23 to go, and Zak Turco levied the clincher with 1:48 on the clock for the Blues. Gavin Tufte added an empty-netter in the waning seconds to make it a two-goal final.
ST. LOUIS BANDITS: The Bandits cemented their present position atop the North Division standings with a pair of wins over visiting Chicago, flexing considerable offensive muscle in a 14-goal weekend. Brad Smith had four points for St. Louis, while netkeep Tom Comunale stopped 23 shots in a 5-0 win on Saturday for his second shutout of the season.
TRAVERSE CITY NORTH STARS: Forward Tim Opie tied a team record on Friday with four goals, and added another to go with two assists on Saturday, leading the Stars to a weekend sweep of Port Huron at Centre ICE Arena. Opie already held the club mark for assists in a game with five (March 26, 2010 vs. Alpena). He earned NAHL North Division Player of the Week honors for his efforts.