Friday, April 27, 2018

2018 NHL Draft Preview: Bode Wilde

Hi everybody, and welcome back to another look at draft-eligible players for the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas. It continues to amaze me the amount of depth, potential, and differing play styles that the defensemen in this draft have. One of these days, I'll discuss a forward (most likely Vitali Kravtsov), but today we're going to look at another high-end potential defenseman.

Today we look at Bode Wilde.

Right-shooting defenseman for US National U18 Team, USDP

6'2" 196 lbs
59 games, 12G 29A 41 points

His draft rankings as of today are:
HockeyProspect - #13
ISS Hockey - #20
FutureConsiderations - #11
McKeens - #15
NHL Central Scouting - #17 (NA Skaters)

Today we turn to a defenseman who has one of the best set of physical tools in the entire draft class from defensemen. Bode Wilde is a big, strong defenseman who skates extremely well, has a strong shot, and is committed to attend the University of Michigan for the next season after playing in the USNTDP (just like high-end d-men like Jacob Trouba and Zach Werenski in recent years).

Wilde is projected to go right around the area that the Devils pick, so he's definitely a name to keep in mind. I know I've been wrong in my first round selection predictions for the Devils and I may regret saying this, but there are some aspects of Wilde's game that really do concern me, and I'll get into them later on. All in all though, Wilde has the potential to be the second best d-man in this draft class. The skills are there, and he's done a fantastic job putting them together. In many ways, he's a polished product.

Offensively, Wilde is absolutely stellar. Combining his blistering bomb of a shot at the point with his ability (that will transfer really well to the NHL in my opinion) to not only keep the puck low - to allow deflections and rebounds - but also finding lanes to get the shot through, make Wilde one of the biggest threats from the blue-line. Wilde also has excellent passing, both in the offensive zone and on the break-out from his own defensive zone. His good vision helps him with this. One of the areas he can improve on is his decision-making *(keep this in mind)* and not take as many risks in the offensive zone with making deep attacks past the goal line. These risks, while they may be mitigated on a more structurally-sound team, will be something Wilde needs to work on. However, that being said, when he's past the center-ice line, Wilde is about as close to a complete package as you can get.

Defensively, Wilde reminds me a lot of a Rasmus Ristolainen type player, where he's not that great defensively, but he's pretty physical so it's a bit covered up. That's not to say Wilde is bad defensively, he's just very inconsistent in that aspect. He uses his frame and physicality to shut down opponents along the boards and is quite nasty in the corners. He is strong enough to separate puck-carriers from the puck. When employed on the penalty kill, Wilde excels as a crease-clearer, and is capable of shutting down top forwards. However, his defensive short-comings have been shown a bit more. This most likely has to do with the fact that he's under a lot of scrutiny being that it's his draft-eligible year. He is committed to University of Michigan for next season, and the NCAA (generally speaking) does a good job of rounding out defensive games. One other aspect of Wilde's defensive play is that he goes for a big hit (stuff like this) pretty often, which isn't bad, but sometimes it puts him out of position. This is another aspect of his game that he'll need to work on. The good news is that his defensive game is raw as opposed to bad, and he has the tools there to improve it.

So here you have a big-bodied, thick-framed, graceful skater, with as much offensive upside as any d-man in the draft (other than Dahlin), who likes to hit, is already playing top-pairing all-situational minutes...why is he projected to go around #17? The biggest concern I have about Wilde's game is that I don't know how good his hockey sense is. He takes so many risks that I don't know if he is comfortable taking risks and needs to tone it down in his development, or whether or not he legitimately doesn't get good reads on plays. Like any young, talented player who's confident in his game, Wilde sometimes tries to do too much, and that's not really a concern I have in the long-run (I had the same concern with Hischier in his draft-eligible year). Wilde is a pretty safe pick in terms of his physical tools will get him into the NHL. Where he really becomes a boom/bust is what he can work on between the ears. I question how well he can process the game at high speeds. Now this could all be wildly unnecessary concerns if he goes out and dominates at the NCAA level next year, but there's definitely some concern on my part. The most frustrating thing is that he doesn't even need to turn into a Lidstrom-like thinker to have definitive top-pairing potential. The hope I have is that he just needs to work on his thinking and decision-making (I have no doubt that the coaching staff at U. Mich will spend quite some time with him in the film room working on this stuff, and the sky is the limit for him.

I'm being overly cautious, and possibly sounding pessimistic (or harsh) about Wilde - I don't mean to be. Players like him scare me a bit because there are games where he absolutely dominates, usually going hand-in-hand with the level of physicality he's playing with, but I'm always worried about the "all tools, no toolbox" potential players. I say this because hockey IQ is very difficult to progress in development, but decision-making can be improved, and the majority of the decision-making he displays are not deal-breakers. I'm just trying to be as honest as possible in my assessment of one of the players that we are very much in the running for at this point. In my opinion the decision-making is a weakness of his game, but if he can make steady improvements over the next few years, and turn it average, the sky is the limit for Wilde. And just to be clear again - perhaps I'm being a bit repetitive, but I'm not trying to imply that Wilde is a dumb hockey player, not in the slightest. The rest of his tools and skills are so high-level or have the potential to be really high-level that this one aspect of his game sticks out. In all reality, his decision-making is a little less than average, and he doesn't have far to go to bring it up to the level that will make him a real threat.

I can only see him needing 2 years at most in the NCAA, and he's very noticeable when he's on the ice (mostly in a good way). It's easy to see why some people are really high on him, and others aren't. Wilde definitely has potential to be a #1 d-man, but could likely end up as a #2 or #3. Some aspects of his game need to be more refined than others, but he could very much end up a top-pairing, two-way, all-situational type defenseman. The skills are all there. There are so many top-end defensemen in this draft that Wilde is a bit overlooked at this point (reminds me a bit of the McAvoy situation from 2016). I may be a bit too harsh in my tone on Wilde in this piece, but I really do think he has potential to be a cornerstone d-man for a team, he has that much potential. All in all, I think the Devils would be thrilled to pick a guy like him.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Bode Wilde. Thank you so much for reading!

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