For as long as Americans have been playing high-level international hockey, Canadian dual citizens have been a part of US national teams. Ranging from Brett Hull (raised mostly in Canada with an American mother) to Mark Howe (son of a Canadian hockey-playing father raised entirely in the States), this trend has been in place for a long time and isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Hockey Canada has noticed that there are some good players coming from south of the border, and tried and succeeded in some cases to lure players to their side. But with international hockey taking on more importance with every passing generation, USA Hockey can claim more than their fair share of victories in these recruiting battles, and it looks like Bode Wilde will be the next one.
Wilde was born and raised in Montreal to a Canadian father and American mother whose sport of choice was skiing, which explains his first name. But like many in that part of the world do, young Bode decided he liked hockey better. He decided he wanted to play college hockey early on, and moved south of the border at age 12 to increase his exposure to college coaches. After four seasons playing for Detroit Belle Tire, Detroit HoneyBaked, and Chicago Mission, he had proven himself to be one of the best defensemen in his age group.
College coaches did indeed take notice, and Wilde committed to Harvard during his lone season with Chicago Mission. Wilde did not play in the Youth Olympics, leaving him more time to decide his international future, but jumped at the opportunity to play for the NTDP when that offer came.
The NTDP 2000s had a lot of trouble putting the puck in the net early on, and although Wilde led all defensemen on the team in goals (8) and points (19) and kept his projected draft position mostly intact, he didn’t receive a call-up to the U18 squad and there were things he needed to improve on in his second NTDP season. But before he could showcase that, he flipped his college commitment from Harvard to the new Mel Pearson regime at Michigan.
In his second NTDP season, with a new coach at the helm, Wilde has shown NHL scouts, and me, what people were getting excited about him for in the first place. Playing on the same pairing as fellow top 2018 draft prospect K’Andre Miller, Wilde has brought his offense back up, made tremendous strides in his play in his own end, and although he is a righty, has proven he is adept at playing on either side of the ice. Leading into the upcoming World Under-18 Championships, Wilde has 11 goals and 36 points across all competitions. He is expected to play top-end minutes for the favored Americans as they seek their eleventh title at the tournament.
Because this draft’s crop on the blue line is so highly-touted, especially on the right side (Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson), Wilde tends to get overlooked by mainstream scouts and publications. But it would be a huge mistake if he falls out of the lottery. He will probably spend two years at Michigan, which has been great for top-end defense prospects this decade (Jacob Trouba, Zach Werenski, Quinn Hughes), and will likely be a part of two US World Junior teams. I don’t think he’ll require very much time in the minor leagues, and he should be ready at 20 or 21 to carve out a lengthy NHL career.
What the scouts are saying
“A defender with arguably the highest upside of any of his talented NTDP teammates, this Harvard-bound blueliner is a phenomenal skater with a blistering shot. Big, thick defensemen that look graceful while carrying the puck simply don’t grow on trees, and you’d probably hear more about him if his draft year wasn’t loaded with cornerstone-type defenders. Wilde is one confident teenager, maybe sometimes to a fault, as doing “too much” with the puck is something he’ll have to limit. Especially considering how talented the NTDP forwards are. Still, he is perfectly capable of playing a variety of roles with aplomb — power play quarterback, crease-clearer on the penalty kill, and even neutralizing top opponents. Wilde loves to hammer the disc thanks to a heavy shot, and he has the ability to either create his own shot from up high or finish in a speed rush to the net. Once he crosses center, he is as close to the complete package as they come, and his size and right-handed shot make him an extremely tantalizing prospect with star potential. Wilde’s risk taking can put his mates in jeopardy, so you’d like to see him go through stretches when he puts a premium on sound positioning, and is willing to refrain from deep attacks every single shift.” - The Draft Analyst
Wilde is a big, two-way difference–maker on the back-end…a big kid that is also a real solid skater…transitions smoothly…passes the puck with authority and accuracy…has a booming slap shot from the point that he can unleash in a hurry…he can be a real catalyst on the power play…shows nice leadership skills…calm puck handling, rarely displaying panic under pressure…generates time and space by using body positioning…uses his big frame to step into opponents and shut them down physically…closes the gap, seals off along the boards and eliminates time and space…not one to go looking for the big hit, but is nasty in the corners and has more than enough strength to knock his opponents and separate them from the puck…employs an active stick and excellent anticipation to disrupt the attack…gets himself into lanes to close them off to the frustration of opposing forwards…poised and mature beyond his age…a nice blend of size, mobility and strength…can do it all, and excels at both ends of the rink…has top-pairing, all-situational NHL upside. - Future Considerations
Where He’ll Be Drafted
As things sit right now, Wilde is likely to come off he board in the 12-20 range. With that said, he has the size and skill sent that NHL scouts often fall in love with. The fact that he’s a right-handed shot helps inflate his draft stock a little as well. If the right team falls in love with him, it wouldn’t be surprising if he lands in the top-10 this June.