Cody Wydo just seems to excel at every level of hockey.
He left Robert Morris as the program's all-time leader in points and goals. In 2015, he was the Colonials' first Hobey Baker finalist. Wydo's 17 points this season is tied with Reid Gardiner for the Nailers' lead and second place in the ECHL. He kills penalties and is a catalyst on Wheeling's league-best power play. He scored his first AHL goal in only his second game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season.
So, what's next for the 26-year-old?
Playing in Pittsburgh's system, Wydo definitely feels like he has a path to the NHL.
"They've had quite a bit of guys come through Wheeling and then to Wilkes-Barre, and up into Pittsburgh in the past few years," he was telling me. "Anytime you can see that happening in an organization, that's something to look at."
Wydo is inspired by Pittsburgh's recent history of developing college talent like Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel, as well as former Nailers Carter Rowney and Tom Kühnhackl winning Stanley Cups. He's also encouraged by the opportunities prospects in Pittsburgh's system have been given, and he thinks his fast-paced high-scoring game is a perfect fit for the system run throughout the organization.
"I think their system fits my style of play well," he said "They like to play on the offensive side and use your speed to create the offense. That's definitely something I can do."
Wydo spends a lot of time in front of the net, waiting to redirect shots. This goal came on Friday:
Wydo's net-front presence earned him a goal on Saturday as well:
Wydo's positioning and speed set him up for this breakaway goal on Sunday, his fifth of the season:
Wydo is currently on an eight-game point streak, the longest of his career. He attributes much of that success to his linemates Gardiner and Nick Sorkin.
"They're the ones that make it easier for me on that side of the game," he told me. "We just have good chemistry and everyone knows where to be when the other guy gets the puck. We just support each other really well."
Wydo isn't all offense, though. It was at Robert Morris, where he played for Derek Schooley, a defensive-minded head coach, that Wydo sharpened his play inside his own zone.
His time at Robert Morris created the foundation for that side of his game, but it is one aspect of his game that Wydo says he is still trying to improve.
"You're constantly working on that," he said. "You always need improvement, especially with the way the game changes at each level, especially with the speed at the pro level."
He mentioned his defensive play as one of the main areas he wants to improve this season, particularly his battles along the wall in the defensive zone and reducing turnovers. He plays on Wheeling's penalty-killing unit, even picking up a shorthanded assist, but Wheeling's penalty kill is still next-to-last in the ECHL at 75.4 percent.
Wydo only played three games in Wilkes-Barre at the end of last season, but he says his biggest takeaway from his time there was the work ethic it takes to play at the higher levels of professional hockey. That includes staying on the ice after practice and working alone on some of his skills.
It also helps, he said, that he played for Wilkes-Barre coach Clark Donatelli for parts of two seasons in Wheeling.
"Anytime you have a former coach coaching the team that is the next level for you, they already know how you play so it gives you a little advantage."
[caption id="attachment_477042" align="aligncenter" width="475"] 13-year-old Cody Wydo[/caption]
Wydo grew up in Allen Park, Mich., (idolizing Steve Yzerman, of course) but he now also loves Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, an area he's spent so much time in.
"It's a neat area, I'm really familiar with it now ... I've been around this area for six, seven years now. It's almost like a second home to me."
He's still hoping to make the move to Wilkes-Barre soon, but he's remaining patient.
"You never know when it's going to happen, it could happen tomorrow, it could not happen for months. You just gotta play the game where you're at and just do the best that you can no matter where you're at."
TIFFELS TAKES WHEELING
Forward Freddie Tiffels (sixth round, 2015) was re-assigned to Wheeling on Wednesday. He had been a healthy scratch with Wilkes-Barre recently, only appearing in three games.
"Right now, Wheeling has six games in the next two weeks," Wilkes-barre coach Clark Donatelli told the Citizens Voice's Tyler Piccotti. "It's just best for their development to go down there and play some games, get some touches."
After so much time off, Tiffels jumped right into Wheeling's three games in three days. It didn't take long for Tiffels to get comfortable, scoring his first professional goal in Saturday's loss in Toledo:
"It was awesome, it was great to get that first out of the way," he said of the goal on Sunday's broadcast. "Now I can concentrate on helping the team even more and just continuing the process."
He did help the team with his defensive abilities in Sunday's win, intercepting a Norfolk pass and setting up Garrett Meurs for a goal, and his first professional assist:
He added another assist on Sunday, finding Hunter Fejes through traffic to set up his goal:
Tiffels named his skating as one of his main strengths as a player and said his focus is on sharpening the offensive part of his game, particularly becoming a goal-scoring threat. Tiffels previously played college hockey at Western Michigan University and said the frequency of games in professional hockey compared to the college game is something he needs to adjust to.
"The Pens chose to pick up a lot of college guys and develop those guys in the AHL," Tiffels said on Sunday's broadcast. "I'm just excited for that process and follow those footsteps of a few guys that went on to play in the NHL."
MORE FROM WHEELING
• Nov. 10: vs. Toledo, 4-3 overtime win
• Nov. 11: at Toledo, 5-3 loss
• Nov. 12: vs. Norfolk, 5-3 win
• In addition to Tiffels, defensemen Jeff Taylor and Dylan Zink were reassigned to the Nailers on Wednesday. Taylor is in Wheeling rehabbing an injury.
• With the players coming down from Wilkes-Barre, Wheeling traded defenseman Jake Bolton to the Florida Everblades for future considerations to free up the roster spot. Bolton had a goal and an assist in his six games with Wheeling this season.
• Garrett Meurs was fined and suspended for Friday's game after he received a major penalty and game misconduct for slashing in Wheeling's game at Indy on Nov. 4. Meurs has taken over the Nailers' agitator role this season and his 36 penalty minutes lead the team. He's found his way onto the scoresheet as well, scoring seven goals and four assists in his ten games.
• Nailers radio broadcaster DJ Abisalih talked about the changes to Wesbanco Arena's ice surface this season, which is 12 feet shorter than the regulation size of 200 feet. Previously, the 12 feet were taken out of the neutral zone. This season they took four feet out from behind each net and added those eight feet back into the neutral zone.
"It's still smaller," Meurs explained on Friday's broadcast. "It's a little bigger now but you can still notice it ... First thing I noticed last year when I got here was that neutral zone. But I kind of like it. It gives that end zone a lot more room, it makes for quicker plays in the neutral zone."
• Wheeling kicked off its three-in-three weekend on Friday when the Toledo Walleye came to town. After a scoreless first period, the Nailers took a 2-0 lead in the second with goals from Fejes and Gardiner. Toledo rallied in the third and Wydo added a goal, and the game went into overtime. Gardiner scored his 10th goal of the season in overtime, giving the Nailers a 4-3 victory. Sean Maguire picked up the win:
• There were some positives to take from Saturday's loss in Toledo. After captain Derek Army got Wheeling off to a 1-0 lead in the first period, Toledo scored three goals in the second. The Nailers were able to battle back with Tiffels scoring his first pro goal and Wydo netting his fourth of the season. Toledo's goal halfway through the third was the game-winner, and the Walleye secured the win with an empty netter, giving Maguire the loss. Gardiner's two assists extended his point streak to ten games.
Fejes dropped the gloves with Darian Dziurzynski on Saturday for his second career fight. It was a good one:
• Wheeling dominated for much of Sunday's game. Meurs tallied his sixth and seventh goals of the season, Brown added a goal and two assists, and Wydo and Fejes each added a goal. Goaltender Will King picked up his first professional start and earned the win with his 39 saves on 42 shots.
• After this weekend, the Nailers' record improved to 7-2-2-0. They sit second in the North division, trailing the Manchester Monarchs by two points. Their penalty kill, once last in the league at 65.4 percent, now sits next-to-last at a more respectable 75.4 percent. Their power play remains the best in the league at 31 percent.
• The Nailers will host their division rival Adirondack Thunder (7-4-1-1) Tuesday at 10:45 a.m. for this year's Education Day, with local schoolchildren visiting. They'll travel to Norfolk (3-9-1-0) for games on Friday and Saturday.
GOALS OF THE WEEK
Fejes showed off his speed for his goal against Toledo. Meurs said that Fejes is the fastest skater on the team:
Cam Brown won the faceoff and Meurs picked up the puck for this goal on Sunday:
SAVE OF THE WEEK
Maguire's quick glove save in Toledo kept it a one-goal game at the end of the first period:
WHEELING FUN THING
The Nailers let fans skate with the team after Sunday's win. In-arena host/hype man Corey Klug posted this funny video with Wydo on the team's Snapchat during the skate:
JUST THE STATS
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