Kyle Wellwood was small in size but big in talent. His journey to the NHL started locally with him starring on teams in the Essex Minor Hockey Association, the Sun County
Panthers and the Tecumseh Chiefs.
Wellwood’s skills and hockey smarts, however, ensured he would not be confined to local boundaries for long, and when the time came, the Belleville Bulls snapped him up in the OHL draft, 16th overall. Though diminutive, Wellwood’s abilities became apparent in a sport that usually favours the big-framed. In his second season with the Bulls, Wellwood collected 118 points and led the OHL in scoring. It was not long before the local Windsor Spitfires had a desire to bring the homegrown talent back to the area. The Spitfires traded the highly-coveted Jason Spezza for Wellwood and Wellwood did not disappoint in his Spits debut, scoring 36 points in 25 games down the stretch and helping the Spitfires reach the third-round of the OHL playoffs, scoring 24 points in 16 playoff games. The next season he won the OHL and CHL Sportsman of the Year.
Wellwood was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round. He turned heads on their farm club in St John’s, scoring 87 points in his final AHL season. He was ready for the big leagues. Wellwood played 489 NHL games with the Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets. Wellwood posted 235 points along the way, including a careerhigh of 47 with the Jets in 2011-12. Wellwood’s reputation as a playmaker with sportsmanship qualities followed him to the NHL. In his career, he only had 36 total penalty minutes and once had a streak of 159 games without an infraction. He was the definition of a clean player. Aside from his career in the NHL, Wellwood had two stints internationally – one with EV Zug of the Swiss League as well as with Atlant Moscow of Russia’s KHL.
Wellwood is the latest in a line of great hockey players whose careers are worthy to be inducted by the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame.