The 2018 NHL Draft, the first one conducted by Lou Lamoriello after taking over as President and General Manager, the Isles had back-to-back picks in the first round taking forward Oliver Wahlstrom 11th overall and defenseman Noah Dobson 12th overall. Wahlstrom, who made his NHL debut last season, is on the Islanders roster this season and scored his first NHL goal last week. Dobson was with the Islanders all season last year playing in 34 games and then made his NHL playoff debut in game six of the Eastern Conference Final. This season, Dobson is a regular on the Islanders’ blueline and playing very well.
With their second-round pick in 2018, Lamoriello took defenseman Bode Wilde 41st overall and he was with the Islanders during their training camp this season before being send to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Isles’ AHL affiliate for their training camp. Last year, Wilde reported to his third training camp with the Islanders nursing an ankle injury, but this season the experience was much better being part of the Isles’ camp before returning to Bridgeport.
“This year going into it, I was excited to get the extra opportunity from the coaches and to hear their feedback,” said Wilde, a 6-3 195-pound blueliner with a terrific right-handed shot. “For the most part, I think the coaches liked what they saw from me and they thought I made some strides from last year and over the summer. But I think the number one thing I noticed and I know they wanted to see me work on was a little execution just being sharper through and through. That’s my focus here in Bridgeport.”
A Challenging 2019-20 Season For The Islanders Prospect:
Last season was certainly a learning experience for Wilde. After his 20-game stint with the Sound Tigers last season, Wilde was re-assigned back to his junior team in Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League. Wilde had just two assists during his time for Bridgeport but then scored 4 goals to go along with 7 assists for 11 points in juniors.
During the pandemic forced extended off-season, Wilde took what he learned and put in the work.
“I just tried to focus on the stuff that Tommer was drilling last year because everything we did was stuff that helped me a lot,” said Wilde. “I worked on puck retrievals and on the blue line too being quick under handling the puck being sharp knowing what I want to do without the puck. It’s just a matter of being mentally prepared to come in and execute all of that stuff and carry it over into a game.”
Wilde, who just turned 21 on January 24th, is a product of the United States National Team Development Program. Born in Montreal to a Canadian Father and an American Mother, Wilde moved to Birmingham, Michigan at the age of 12 and holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. He led all USNTDP defenseman in goals with 12, assists with 29 and points with 41 over 61 games during the 2017-18 season. Considered by many to be a first-round pick, Wilde slipped to the Islanders in the second round and there were many experts who felt that with him the Isles had the steal of the draft.
A New Season For Bode Wilde With The Islanders’ AHL Team:
Wilde and the Sound Tigers begin their 24-game regular season this Friday afternoon against the Providence Bruins. He’s certainly come a long way since his time in Bridgeport last season.
“The biggest thing that stands out is that it looks like he’s more put together,” said Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson. “He’s a little bit bigger. He’s got better balance. He’s still got some work (to do) with his feet and he’s still got some things that he needs to improve on but he’s ahead of the curve. It’s good to see that he came in with a good attitude. He’s doing the things he has to do right now.”
Wilde was not selected to be part of last season’s training camp 2.0 with the Islanders prior to the team departing for the playoffs in the Toronto bubble. Wilde used the time during the pandemic to work on things to improve his game and when the NHL announced it’s return to play format for this season, he was with the Islanders learning from Head Coach Barry Trotz and his staff as well as the team’s veteran defensemen.
“I think it’s a big advantage as far as just getting in the intense practice environment of the NHL and with the Islanders and being grounded with some of the structure right away,” said Thompson.
As Wilde continues to make strides towards a career with the Islanders in the NHL, he has already compiled a strong hockey resume. He won a gold medal playing for the United States in the 2017 Under-17 Hockey Challenge as well as a silver medal as a member of Team USA at the 2018 Under-18 World Championships in Russia and was named an Ontario Hockey League Second-Team All-Star for the 2018-19 season. That season, Wilde was named “Best Shot” in a poll of OHL Western Conference coaches.
Bode Wilde Learns A Lot At Islanders Training Camp:
Wilde made a strong push to at least be a part of the Islanders’ taxi squad this season, but he’s going to take that experience and bring the “Islanders Way” with him to the AHL campaign in Bridgeport.
“It was awesome,” said Wilde of his time with the Islanders. “They do a great job of teaching. They showed video and they taught it really well. Playing with those guys was a pretty awesome experience. Those guys are just elite and their all such good dudes. They get along so well. I think it’s a pretty neat NHL environment. I haven’t seen too many teams that get along as well as all those guys do so that was cool.”
During Islanders training camp, Wilde also saw proof right in front of his eyes that by working hard and improving his game, he can join the fraternity of players that graduated from the Sound Tigers to the Islanders. A number of current Islanders, including defensemen Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech along with Captain Anders Lee and other forwards like Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, Michael Dal Colle and Matt Martin, have spent time in Bridgeport before earning a roster spot with the Islanders.
It all comes down to the fact that the coaching staff in Bridgeport does a good job of getting players prepared for the National Hockey League.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Wilde. “You can tell that obviously there’s a lot of trust within the organization and trust from up above that Tommer (Brent Thompson) and the coaching staff here know what they’re doing and are going to develop the players right. That makes me trust Tommer and all those guys so I’m looking forward to this year as short as it may be. I think a lot of us are just ready to play and kind of show what we can do.”
It’s going to be a short season in Bridgeport, but Wilde is looking at these 24 games with the Sound Tigers and possibly the playoffs as an opportunity to take his game to the next level. He’s had some ups and downs during the last couple of seasons, but he’s focused and determined to be the next defenseman that makes the jump from Bridgeport to Long Island.
There’s nothing like being a young hungry player with competition around him and Wilde will see that with the Sound Tigers this season.
“First of all being healthy and getting the experience last year and there’s a lot of young guys here this year too,” said Wilde. “The team looks completely different and I feel good for sure.”
Bode Wilde may not get an opportunity in the NHL this season as Sebastian Aho and Thomas Hickey are already defensemen on the Islanders’ taxi squad. But Wilde does have a chance to open up some eyes in Bridgeport and that opportunity to put the Islanders sweater on in an NHL game could be drawing closer. Islanders fans should certainly keep an eye on how Wilde develops in Bridgeport.