SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Spirit have been playing some of their best defensive hockey in recent weeks, moving back into the thick of the West Division.
Part of that has been because of lights-out-play from Ivan Prosvetov in net, but he’s getting help from the guys in front of him, too.
Standout Bode Wilde is one of those guys, playing in his first season with the Spirit after spending two years with the United States National Junior Team that earned him selection by the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
His play through his first 21 games with the Spirit earned an entry level contract from New York.
“It hasn’t taken Bode long to adjust,” Saginaw General Manager Dave Drinkill said. “But when you’re an elite player like that, he’s played in NHL exhibition games and at NHL camps so it’s not as much of an adjustment. He’s acclimated well, and I think we’re a different team with him in the lineup.”
At 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Wilde is a presence on the ice, but he’s blended size with smooth skating, athleticism, vision with the puck and skill to be a complete playmaker for Saginaw.
With five goals and 17 assists, he’s averaging over a point a game for the Spirit, which ranks ninth in the Ontario Hockey League among defenseman. And that’s with missing six games due to NHL camp and an injury.
“(The OHL) is pretty much what I expected, but it’s a little quicker than what I was used to,” Wilde said. “Overall, I think I’m transitioning well and having fun.
“It’s definitely a grind, but this is a place that has a schedule very similar to the NHL. It was something I thought about when I decided to play here and prepare myself for what’s next.”
Wilde was originally drafted by Saginaw in the 2016 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection when he was committed to playing for the national team and Harvard after that. A high-profile courtship for his services ensued with the University of Michigan taking a run at Wilde, but he ultimately decided his highly-anticipated hockey future was best served by playing in the OHL with Saginaw.
It prepares him for the next level by playing an NHL-type schedule with three games in three nights, long road trips and a deep schedule playing against other NHL draft picks night in and night out.
But Wilde and the Islanders both think that’s only speeding up his development.
“They were pretty happy with the way I’ve been playing,” Wilde said of New York, who drafted him No. 41 overall in June. “My instruction from them was just to go out here and be myself. Play my game and continue to learn to be a pro on and off the ice with habits and the lifestyle taking care of your body.
“It’s a matter of maturing and the small details on the ice: closing gaps quickly and keeping a good, active stick in the defensive zone.”
Since returning from an upper-body injury in mid-November, Wilde has done just that garnering an even or positive rating in 7 of 10 games, including four straight to end November. He’s also shined offensively in that time scoring two goals with six assists.
“He lifts our whole group up,” Drinkill said. “He plays a lot of minutes in all situations for us, especially on the power play. He helps drive our offense from the back end. I like the way he can use his legs and carry the puck up the ice and make plays. He’s a huge piece for our team, and we’re happy to have him.”