clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2018 NHL Entry Draft Prospect Profile: Bode Wilde

When it comes to developing prospects, patience can be a virtue.

USHL Fall Classic - Day 3 Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Name: Bode Wilde

Team: USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USHL)

Stats: 25 GP, 3 goals, 13 assists, 26 points, 16 PIMs, +19 plus-minus rating

Position: Defense

NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 17th (North American Skaters)

NHL Comparable Player: Mike Matheson

Some hockey prospects make the job of a scout incredibly easy. It barely takes a couple of shifts of watching someone like Rasmus Dahlin, for example, for a scout to realize that he or she is observing a truly elite, once-in-a-generation kind of player.

Other prospects, however, really make scouts earn their keep.

Every NHL draft has players like this, but for the 2018 class in particular, few prospects exemplify this challenge quite like defenseman Bode Wilde.

It doesn’t take much time watching Wilde for him to really catch your eye. At roughly 6’2” and 196 pounds he is pretty easy to spot out on the ice. It’s not until Wilde gets the puck on his stick and really gathers up a head of steam, however, that everyone’s attention stops and focuses on him at the same time.

When it comes to raw athletic ability, few players in this year’s draft class match up with Wilde. The son of parents who were both high-end skiers, he is a natural athlete and probably has no trouble keeping fit and staying active at an advanced level. For a player with his frame, he is incredibly mobile and light on his feet, capable of making a quick first couple of steps in any direction before shifting into a higher gear and exploding through neutral ice. When he gets his body moving at full speed, he’s a serious challenge to slow down or catch up to.

His play with the puck sometimes isn’t too far behind, either. His hands are as quick as his feet, allowing him to deftly slide the puck around rapidly encroaching opponents to maintain possession. His wrist shot doesn’t come off his stick at quite the same pace, but it packs some punch and has a lot of accuracy behind it, enough of both to pick a corner and pop a bottle. His slap shots and one-timers aren’t exactly in the Al MacInnis territory, but they’re enough of a threat that opposing defenses have to respect and account for them.

The real challenge with Wilde is that the more you watch him play, the more you realize just how many other little areas he still needs to work on and, even worse, which of these areas teams might not be able to develop much at all.

For all his talents, Wilde sometimes has trouble converting them into positive results on a shift-by-shift basis. Despite consistently putting forth an honest effort, there are times when the promising blueliner gets overwhelmed and eaten up in the play. A pass gets missed, a coverage gets blown or an area gets exited too early without the puck and all of a sudden the play is dangerously going the other direction as Wilde and his teammates have to hustle back and scramble to recover into a defensive position. Even on a far less dramatic basis, there are too many micro moments where Wilde will be thinking one step behind the play, just enough of a difference to miss out on making something positive happen, such as cutting off an errant pass to gain possession or keeping the play alive longer in the offensive zone.

While this may seem like nitpicking, those split-second reactions and decisions make an enormous difference in the NHL, where the pace is ramped up and you’re going toe-to-toe against hockey’s fastest players at reading and reacting.

The million dollar question with Wilde, and one that will surely be heavily debated by NHL scouting staffs in the coming weeks, is how many of these flaws can be ironed out of his game with enough development and experience?

As one example, Wilde currently struggles when it comes to preventing opposing players from entering the defensive zone and getting set up. It’s a strange weakness considering Wilde has impressive mobility and a decently long reach with his stick. However, it seems entirely plausible that enough hands-on attention from coaches and other hockey staff could help Wilde to develop better gap control and better stick placement to alleviate the problem.

At the same time, though, the ability to read the play at an elite level and not get mentally outmaneuvered by opposing players is not something that every prospect is capable of developing, no matter how much dedicated development they receive.

The good news for Wilde and any NHL teams that are considering drafting him is that he’s chosen the longer, steadier development path of NCAA hockey, as opposed to the major junior route. The University of Michigan is a pretty good program to play for, too. If necessary, he can spend three or four years in the NCAA and then head to the AHL for one or two more, depending on how much time he and his future organization think he needs.

Hypothetically speaking, if Wilde is able to advance the finer details of his game to an NHL level and successfully combine them with his incredible physical abilities, he could potentially one day become a player that dominates entire games, not just infrequent shifts. That’s still a pretty big “if,” of course.

When it comes to their defense prospects, the Dallas Stars are in a pretty good spot at the moment, especially with the addition of Miro Heiskanen in last year’s draft. They don’t have a particularly pressing need to add a top young defenseman. However, that doesn’t mean that Wilde isn’t going to be a heavily considered option for the organization and their 13th-overall pick if he is still available. The Stars have a clear affinity for prospects that combine size and skating ability (Denis Gurianov, Riley Tufte, Roope Hintz, Nick Caamano and many others) and simply might believe that Wilde’s potential ceiling is higher than the ceiling of anyone else still left on the board.

In the case of Wilde, will good things come to a team that is willing to wait?