AHL Prospect Rankings: #7 – Cody Wild

Jonathan Willis
February 20 2009 12:52PM

cody Wild (left)

Cody Wild is a player who has the reputation of being an offensively-minded defenseman with shortcomings in his own zone. This season, he’s played the tough opposition in the AHL while putting up one of the best +/- numbers on the team; quite possibly at the expense of his offensive totals.

  • Position: Defense
  • Size: 6’1”, 205lbs
  • Birth-date: June 5, 1987
  • Shoots: Left

There generally isn’t much information available on unheralded prospects like Cody Wild. The Providence Journal did a brief biography of him in March of 2005, as he prepared to make the jump from the Boston Junior Bruins to Providence College. We learn there that Wild started skating when he was three, and played his first hockey game at age five. We learn that he played hockey for two years (2002-04) at a Catholic high school, La Salle Academy, before playing for the Junior Bruins.

We also learn that had he not been wearing a seatbelt in the summer of 2004, all of the work he put into his hockey career could have been for naught. On July 19th, the 17-year old Wild was a passenger in a friend’s Jeep, when a car cut them off. The driver of the Jeep, Louis Salvatore, slammed on the brakes, causing the Jeep to roll over. Salvatore died in the accident, while the driver who cut them off was later charged on a number of counts, and later sentenced to eight years in prison.

Wild went on to have a successful season despite the tragedy, leading all EJHL defensemen in points, assists, and short-handed goals. The Junior Bruins won the EJHL championship, and Wild was named to the EJHL First All-Star Team. Central Scouting ranked Wild as the 125th best North American prospect in their mid-season rankings, but he went unselected in the 2005 Draft. He did sign on with Providence College, his hometown team. Let’s have a look at the numbers he posted over his college career:

  • 2005-06: 36GP – 6G – 15A – 21 PTS, +5
  • 2006-07: 32GP – 6G – 8A – 14 PTS, -11
  • 2007-08: 32GP – 4G – 18A – 22 PTS, +6

Cody Wild had a very strong season in 2005-06. Providence went 17-16-3, scoring 105 goals and allowing 94 (+11), and Wild led all defensemen in points (21), goals (6) and +/- (+5). Wild’s scoring breaks down as follows:

  • Even-strength/short-handed: 3G – 9A – 12 PTS
  • Power-play: 3G – 6A – 9 PTS

Wild took 71 shots and recorded an 8.5 shooting percentage; a good number for a defenseman (and just behind his teammate, Colin McDonald). It is worth noting that while Wild was a strong option on the power-play, he wasn’t dependent on it. Wild’s 21 points mean that he was in on 20% of his team’s offense, again a very strong number for a defenseman. The Oilers selected Wild in the 5th round of that summer’s Entry Draft (140th overall), and he was named to Hockey East’s All-Rookie Team and was runner-up for Rookie of the Year.

2006-07 was a much uglier year for both Providence and Cody Wild. The Friars went 10-23-3, allowing 108 goals while only scoring 76 (-32). Wild played for weeks with an undiagnosed torn labrum, and then chose to forego surgery to finish off the season. Wild again led the team’s defensive corps in goals (6), points (14) and power-play points (6). Wild’s scoring broke down as follows:

  • Even-strength/short-handed: 5G – 3A – 8 PTS
  • Power-play: 1G – 5A – 6 PTS

Wild took 70 shots and recorded an 8.6 shooting percentage, numbers that were bang on with what he posted the year before. His 14 points meant that he was in on 18.4% of his team’s total offense; a bit of a drop, to be sure, but hardly as dramatic as just looking at total points would indicate. Given Wild’s injury and the weakness of the friars, it wasn’t an awful season statistically. Wild’s off-season surgery meant that his training time in the summer was dramatically reduced.

2007-08 saw a minor resurgence by the Friars (14-17-4) who scored 91 goals while allowing 99. Cody Wild, on the other hand, experienced a major resurgence. His +/- (+6) was the second-best number on the team, behind his regular defense partner Matt Taormina (+10). Here is how Wild’s scoring broke down:

  • Even-strength: 1G – 9A – 10 PTS
  • Power-play: 2G – 8A – 10 PTS
  • Short-handed: 1G – 1A – 2 PTS

Wild set a career high for total shots (94) while simultaneously setting a career low in shooting percentage (4.3%). His 22 points meant that he was in on 24.2% of the Friars’ offense, which was also a career high. After the Friars were eliminated from contention, Wild signed an amateur tryout contract with the Falcons, and a three year entry-level deal with the Oilers just three days later. Let’s take a look at his professional statistics to date:

  • 2007-08 (AHL): 13GP – 1G – 2A – 3 PTS, -3
  • 2008-09 (ECHL): 6GP – 1G – 2A – 3PTS, +1
  • 2008-09 (AHL): 34GP – 3G – 7A – 10 PTS, -1

After an OK cameo in 2007-08, Wild has stood out among the Falcon’s blue-liners this season. Based on the amount of pre-season hype for the current group of AHL defenseman, it’s fair to guess that Wild’s development was going to take a back seat to that of Taylor Chorney and Theo Peckham. To date, it’s fair to argue that Wild has outperformed Taylor Chorney at the AHL level, and if the trend continues it would not surprise me in the slightest to see Wild pass Chorney as a prospect of interest.

We’ve discussed ad nauseum the struggles of the Falcons this season; a 17-30-6-2 record, the 126 goals for and 171 against, for a differential of -45. Against that backdrop, Wild’s -1 rating is exceptional, especially since we have good reason to believe that he’s been seeing tough competition. His 10 points represents only 8% of Springfield’s offense, but adjusting for games played we find Wild contributing on 12.8% of all the team’s goals. That isn’t as high as it should be, but Wild is doing a good job holding his own against tougher opponents.

Despite this, Wild was repeatedly healthy-scratched and eventually sent down to Stockton. In the six games before Wild was sent down, he was scratched twice and played in four games. The Falcons lost all four games, getting outscored 18 to 9, but Wild finished only -1 during that stretch, and led the team in shots (including forwards) in one of those games. He also recorded an assist. The game before being scratched twice and then sent out, Wild was +1 in a 6-4 loss to Lowell.

Jeff Truitt likely had good reasons for scratching Wild and then relegating him to the ECHL, but it’s extremely difficult to see what they are at this distance. Wild was regularly partnered with either Peckham or Roy against tough opponents, and unlike many other players on the roster, he wasn’t getting killed while doing so. Statistically, he’s been an excellent player for years, and I’d imagine that between his size and puck-moving savvy he eventually gets an NHL shot. I also suspect that Wild’s a victim of his own lack of hype; his performance this season is clearly ahead of both Chorney and Mathieu Roy. I’m quite confident that if Chorney were putting up the numbers that Wild is, the organization would be gushing about him.

NHL Contract Status: $850K until 2010-11, pending RFA AHL Performance Compares To: Brett Clark Projection: Third-pairing defenseman

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Chris
February 20 2009, 02:11PM
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I wonder how many coaching decisions have nothing to do with hockey and everything to do with personality. Truitt banashing Wild to the ECHL makes about as much sense to me as MacT benching Penner for being a plus player on the third line. Hockey should be emotional for the PLAYERS and purly rational for the coaches.

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#2 King Mob
February 20 2009, 03:47PM
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Chris wrote:

I wonder how many coaching decisions have nothing to do with hockey and everything to do with personality. Truitt banashing Wild to the ECHL makes about as much sense to me as MacT benching Penner for being a plus player on the third line. blockquote> yeah, you would know. after all, you read a WHOLE article about him. If only Truitt had your experience with Cody Wild.
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#3 Chris
February 20 2009, 05:26PM
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@ King Mob: True. I don't know Cody Wild. But as Willis pointed out, Wild's numbers were okay... So the demotion was either about personality, or the need for the player to gain more confidence/ playing time in the ECHL. Truitt may be the worlds greatest person: choosing to sacrifice his tenure with the Falcon's to do the right thing for Cody Wild's development despite a pressing need for servicable D-men on his roster...

Or maybe, Truitt is a douche like MacT who likes to play favorites...

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#4 Matt N
February 21 2009, 08:03AM
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@ Jonathon

Have you heard anything about Wild having issues off the ice? This seems the only logical reason for PB and demotions. I would almost be happier if that was the case. You can write if off to youth and not question his on ice performance, which looks good from the outside looking in.

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