For Bode Wilde, age isn't just a number, nor is it an indicator of maturity. At the ripe age of 19, Wilde has already established high demands and ambitious goals for himself, mainly making the jump to the American Hockey League next season as a teenager.
"I'm focused on training hard and having a big summer," Wilde said. "I do think I could move up a level and hopefully play in Bridgeport this upcoming season."
Wilde is eligible to play in the AHL as a 19-year-old because he was drafted out of the US amateur ranks, as opposed to the Canadian juniors, but being eligible is different from being ready.
Wilde has a claim to that too, as he feels confident in his ability to make the considerable jump from juniors to the AHL, after recording 70 points (19G, 51A) in 62 games with the Saginaw Spirit. Wilde's first year in the OHL went so well that he was named a Max Kaminsky Trophy finalist for the league's top defenseman and helped lead the Spirit to the third round of the playoffs.
The standout year validated Wilde's decision to play in the OHL opposed to taking the collegiate route. After spending two seasons with the US National Team Development Program, Wilde's choice ultimately came down to the league setup he determined would best prime his evolution as a player.
"I think [junior] was the right decision for me," Wilde said. "At the end of the day, I just went with my gut and what I thought was going to be right for me and how I am as a person and a player."
It was not an easy decision, but a calculated one. Playing in the "O" allotted, Wilde to see significantly more game action than he would in the NCAA and for the 6-foot-2, 192-pound defenseman to emulate a routine similar to one at the professional level.
"I think for me it was the reps, having 79 games and having an incredible coaching staff," Wilde said. "I didn't really try to change my game, but just tried to continuously build on it. That allowed me to really thrive this year."
Wilde's enhanced diligence in his training, skating and overall preparation was noticed widely by his Saginaw teammates and fellow Isles prospects, Blade Jenkins and Cole Coskey.
"His mentality is there, his focus is there," Coskey, the Isles' 2019 seventh-round pick (209th overall), said of Wilde. "He's always in the gym stretching and doing the little things. After practice, you'll see him stay out there working on his edge work for an extra five or 10-minutes, whatever it is. Just always doing the little things. His focus is there. I think he's ready for it."
"Bode is a pretty elite player," Blade Jenkins, the Isles' 2018 fifth-round pick (134th overall), said. "I've been playing with him for quite a few years now and just being able to see his growth. He's one of those guys who's in the gym after practice, whether it's stretching or getting a light lift in. On the ice and after practice or morning skates he's always working on the little things. For him, it's been pretty great. He's pretty skilled, but he's always able to critique himself."
Wilde took note of the change in culture that occurred in the Isles' locker room and the success that resulted from the team buying into a defensive structure and "we-over-me" mentality. During his second Islanders Development Camp, Wilde hopes to learn from those internal changes that occurred across the organization and to take that knowledge to better his overall routine and details.
"It's just a matter of being detailed and being on board with what everyone is doing," Wilde said. "Clearly, that's exactly what happened with the Islanders this year...You can just see how detailed their system is. I think that'd be really easy to jump into.
"At development camp, we're all just here to learn and showcase what we can do," he added. "It's just a matter of learning and taking advantage of the resources here. We're all just trying to improve our game."
Wilde may not be the only Islanders teenager to wind up in Bridgeport next season, as 2018 first-round pick Oliver Wahlstrom finished the season with the Sound Tigers. While confident in his ability, Wilde knows there's still work to be done to make sure he's at that level and plans to take advantage of the rest of the summer.
"You're playing against men in that league," Wilde said. "For me, I think the things I need to work on are just getting stronger and working on some details in my game to be as ready as I can come September."