Over the next few weeks heading into the 2018 NHL Draft, we will be taking a look at some of the players that the Philadelphia Flyers could potentially draft. The Flyers have two first-round picks in this year’s draft, with the 14th and 19th picks overall.
At some point I’m sure you’ve all heard this saying: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Well, I think that mantra applies when drafting defensemen. Yes, the Flyers are stocked on the blueline, but unfortunately the future is written in pencil. Injuries happen. Trades happen. Prospects don’t meet their potential, and winning comes at a financial price.
If the Flyers want to contend down the line, they’re going to need to rely on their pipeline to keep churning out NHL-level talent. It’s no guarantee that Travis Sanehim, Philippe Myers and Sam Morin will reach their ceiling. So it would behoove Ron Hextall to invest in another defenseman. Let’s take a closer look at who could be the next big thing on the Flyers’ blueline
Born: January 24, 2000
Montreal, QC, Canada
Weight: 196 lbs
The hulking right-hander, who has drawn stylistic comparisons to Dustin Byfuglien, is a marvel to watch with the puck on his stick. He glides almost effortlessly on the ice, which helped him score 12 goals and notched 41 point in 61 games for the United States National Team Development Program.
Wilde is fantastic skater with a laser of a wrist shot and a howitzer of a slap shot. He first gained notoriety at the 2017 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge where he put up six points in five games and was the top-scoring defenseman at the tournament.
Wilde’s offensive skillset is what makes him noticeable. His exceptional skating and acceleration in all directions keep him in position in the defensive zone while his strong balance gives him the leverage to clear the crease for his goaltenders. Wilde exhibits solid gap control and keeps the puck to the least dangerous parts of the ice.
His strong edgework allows time to transition seamlessly from defense to offense, where he is not shy about joining the rush. He’s a great passer and can quickly jumpstart the transition with his vision and stickhandling.
When on the attack, Wilde exhibits all the tools of a power play quarterback. He can get the puck through traffic, set up his teammates and he rarely panics with the biscuit. And that shot. Oh my goodness that shot. Wilde can not only get off a hard shot from anywhere on the ice, but his release is quick, too. That aggressiveness, however, can also put his teammates in a bad spot.
There are stretches where he’ll forgo his defensive responsibilities in favor of attacking on offense. As he matures, I’m sure he’ll learn when to pick and choose his spots.
On the other side of the blueline, Wilde is still figuring out his defensive game. There are times where he’ll use his size and strength to separate the man from the puck and he’ll use his frame to assert his dominance. Then there are other nights where his positioning isn’t sound, his gap control is poor and he’ll be apprehensive to use his size.
When Wilde is on his game, though, he’s a pain in the tail to play against. He won’t go for that big hit, but he’ll read the play and disrupt the flow of the offense by using an active stick and anticipating where the puck is going. If there’s a loose puck on the wall, he’ll stick his nose in there and utilize his strength to win the battle.
If Wilde can use every tool in his arsenal, he can be a number one defenseman, but that’s a big if. He’ll need to work on his game-to-game consistency as well as picking the right spots to be aggressive. Hopefully that will come as he refines his game at the University of Michigan. Regardless of his flaws, Wilde is an intriguing prospect. He moved up from no. 22 in the midseason North American skater rankings to no. 17 by the end of the year.
If he amounts to a solid second-pairing defenseman, the pick will be a win. Smooth skating, right-handed defensemen are a premium in the NHL. The Flyers already have one in Lehigh Valley. Will they add another on June 22?
Disclaimer: All of these scouting reports come from aggregated content from throughout the Internet. Any opinion I give is merely a combination of all the information I have gleaned while researching these players.
(Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)