It’s a big prospect talk day over here at Broad Street Hockey! We talked about this weekend’s rookie games earlier, and now we’re kicking off a new little series, breaking down the top-10 prospects in the Flyers’ system.
Last week, we polled the staff here for their personal top-10 rankings and used that to compile our composite list, and we’ll be working through that list over the next couple of weeks. Surely the suspense is killing you, but we’ll get through this together.
First up, it’s Zayde Wisdom!
No. 10: Zayde Wisdom
2021-21 League/Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2020-21 Statistics: 9 G, 29 A, 38 P in 43 GP
Acquired In: 2020 (drafted)
How did Wisdom’s 2021-22 hockey season go? Is his stock trending up or down from where it was entering the year?
We’d say this his stock is holding pretty steady after last season. It was a weird one for him, to be sure. After undergoing shoulder surgery in August, he was sidelined for just about four months, before being loaned back to Kingston at the end of November.
And there we saw him put up decent numbers—fine, but not what you would expect from a player returning to junior hockey after spending a season in the AHL, while also spending much of his time there playing alongside Shane Wright (at the time, the presumptive first overall pick in the upcoming draft). That said, it’s hard to approach this too harshly. Four months is a long time to be sidelined, and a shoulder injury is a tough one to bounce back from quickly, so the fact that it took him a while to get going again on a team he spent a year away from isn’t a huge surprise, and shouldn’t reflect badly on him. Wisdom got better as the season went on, and that’s what we wanted to see. And, if we’re being realistic, after a year playing pro, there wasn’t a whole lot he was going to gain development-wise from going back to juniors for another year. But he was able to heal up and get himself back to game speed, and that’s something. Neither a big step forward nor a big step back.
What are we expecting from Wisdom this season? What should we be looking for from him?
This year, he’ll be back in the AHL, and really what we’re looking for is for him to stabilize a bit. In his first stint with the Phantoms, he ran pretty hot and cold—he started the season on a tear, everything seemed to be going in for him, and then as the season wore on he cooled off pretty dramatically, and then we saw him struggling more and looking frustrated. Those swings were pretty dramatic, and neither end was likely representative of his true talent, at least at the time. So the big thing we’re looking for from him this season is to get settled back in at the AHL level, and work towards finding some consistency. Streakiness can happen, that’s not a bad thing, but we’re looking for him to settle into some middle ground between what he brought in his first stint.
We expect that he’ll find the scoring touch again eventually, but it will likely be a bit more difficult this time around—with taxi squads a thing of the past, the league is less depleted and the competition will be more difficult. So in some ways, this feels like a proper AHL debut coming up,
How does Wisdom fit into the Flyers’ long-term plans? Where does he stand in the Flyers’ organizational depth?
Wisdom is in something of an interesting, murky middle sort of spot. The Flyers’ prospect pool, though not looking quite as deep as it did a few years ago, is still pretty flush with forwards who could play a middle-six role in the NHL, like Wisdom. And because of age or pedigree, there are a handful (Wade Allison, Noah Cates, or Tyson Foerster, for example) already ahead of him on the depth chart, and an even larger group who will be toiling away in the AHL with him this year, looking to assert himself as the best of the rest, if you will.
One piece working in his favor, though, is the positional flexibility he brings—it remains to be seen whether he’ll stick at center or at wing at the NHL level, but the option is open for a coach to try him in either spot, wherever he’s needed more, and that’s valuable, and would put him ahead of a player who can only play in the one spot.
All of that said, this is going to be a big year for him. He has the chance to make a statement as he gets settled into the professional game, and if all goes well, vault himself up that organizational depth chart.
What do we think Wisdom’s ultimate NHL upside is, and how likely is it that he gets to something approaching that?
As we alluded to above, Wisdom’s ceiling is likely somewhere around a good NHL third liner, sometimes second liner, in a pinch. His hard nosed style of play easily endears him to coaches, and his scoring touch makes his game a bit more well-rounded.
Though we want to be careful, again, not to get swept away by his early season performance in his first AHL stint. The nearly point per game scoring pace was nice to see while it lasted, but it did only last about ten games, and we shouldn’t take that as the expectation for him going forward, and we shouldn’t let it dramatically change our expectation of his upside.
That said, how well he’s able to develop that scoring game over the next season or two will get us a lot closer to pinpointing what exactly that offensive upside can look like at the NHL level. He’s still early in his development, and while the mark of a productive NHL regular doesn’t feel like a long shot, there’s still some time and work needed to get there. Fortunately, there’s no need for rush.