A top prospect expected to go in the first round of the NHL draft has decided to change his plans for the future, as Bode Wilde will no longer attend the University of Michigan in the fall. That’s according to Bob McKenzie of TSN, who reports that Wilde will instead decide where to play after he finds out who drafts him on Friday. Wilde’s rights are owned in the CHL by the Saginaw Spirit, who just last week convinced Cole Perfetti to give up his commitment to Michigan and sign in the OHL.
Wilde, 18, had previously been linked to Harvard as well, and played this season with the US Development Program. The smooth skating defenseman has everything you’d want from a prospect except perhaps an elite playmaking ability. His biggest strength is skating the puck out of trouble, and he has the size and frame to grow into a physical presence on the back end. Interestingly he was recently kept off the roster for Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Summer Showcase, which could hurt his draft stock on Friday night. This decision to avoid the NCAA could improve it again, though teams rarely avoid taking college players that high due to any risk involved with them staying all four years. The prospect of a first-round pick waiting four years to become an unrestricted free agent is possible, but very unlikely given the expectation of playing time.
If Wilde does join the OHL, he’ll be a huge addition to a Saginaw team that looks ready to really turn things around. The team finished with a 29-30-9 record last season, but should expect a sizable step in production from Blade Jenkins and a potential return by overage Keaton Middleton, who failed to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wilde would give them another elite defenseman that can change a game by himself, something that an NHL team will snap up somewhere in the middle of round one in just a few days.