Jake Wise, US National Team Development Program (USHL)
Age on Draft Day: 18.33
Height/Weight: 5’10, 195 pounds
2017-2018 Stats (USHL Only): 18 GP, 9 G, 19 A, 4 PIM, +17
NHL Central Scouting: 38th (North American Skaters)
Canucks Army: 28th
Scott Wheeler: 32nd
Craig Button (TSN): 36th
Future Considerations: 63rd
ISS Hockey: (Not Top-31)
Jake Wise, committed to Boston University for the 2018-2019 season, was the USNTDP’s second-line center. There’s no shame in sitting behind Jack Hughes, the projected first pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, and Wise played a pivotal role for the US in a number of ways.
What stands out immediately is not only how hard Wise works on the ice, but also how smart. There are many hockey players with great work ethics and who give their all every shift, but lack the hockey IQ to make it matter. Despite being 5’10, Wise not only plays with energy, but understands how to make plays away from the puck. He’s a strong defensive center who covers his checks. Here’s just one example from the USA Top Prospects game, where he ties up his man to prevent what would have been a sure goal from a quality rebound opportunity.
And here’s a backcheck in which he breaks up a high quality scoring chance. What’s impressive here is the quick recognition of his teammate’s decision to pressure the puck, and Wise adjustment to make sure the slot is protected.
Is Wise’s size sub-optimal for a center? Yes, maybe so. However, he is very strong, and he protects the slot well nonetheless.
In the offensive zone, Wise is a puck pursuer. He is the kind of player who can take on three players in a puck battle and emerge with possession. He is also very good at keeping plays alive by pressuring the puck immediately after his team loses it and winning pucks back.
Playing alongside other hardworking players, there were a number of long shifts where USA cycled the puck for seemingly eternity. I showed this clip in my Joel Farabee profile, and it’s just as relevant for Wise (wearing #12).
Though Wise does have a pretty good wrist shot, he is certainly a pass-first player. He’s very good at driving forward in the offensive zone before delaying and changing the angle to create a backdoor pass. He also does well on low-to-high passes from behind the goal line.
Wise’s production in the USHL is extraordinary. Over the last 20 season, he ranks 9th among U18 players in points-per-game.
Wise is in some pretty incredible company here. He’s not far off from Clayton Keller, and surpassed some quality NHLers including Jaden Schwartz, Brock Boeser, and Alex Tuch.
Now, as I said for Farabee, his production needs a heavy dose of context. This USNTDP team was probably the best ever, with an immense amount of offensive talent. Hughes and Wahlstrom played on the top line, giving Wise much easier matchups. And at times, particularly on the power play, he benefitted from their elite abilities.
There is another side to that coin, though. Wahlstrom and Hughes command the puck, and justifiably so. Those are two elite offensive players who made goals happen. The consequence for Wise, though, is a limited number of touches of the puck during power plays. He played the bumper whose job was largely to serve as a volleying partner for the perimeter players and create havoc in the slot. In a different situation, he has a more involved role on the puck and picks up more goals in the process.
When I began creating this list, I had Wise in the 35-40 range due to limited upside. However, the more I watched him at the U18 World Championship and in the USHL, the more I bought into the idea of him cracking my top-31. He’s not going to be a superstar, but beyond that I am hesitant to confine him to a particular ceiling. His USHL production is definitely inflated, but it’s hard to quantify by how much. A few years back, he was viewed as a high-end prospect, and he also suffered a pretty serious collarbone injury at the start of the season. Whatever the case, I think Wise can be a player who does a lot for your team. He’s a very intelligent player who works hard every shift. He forechecks well, covers his responsibilities in the neutral and defensive zones, and kills penalties. And he manages to play such an intensive, involved style without taking many penalties. He has pretty good vision on the puck and a capable wrist shot.
He’s going to spend two-to-four years at Boston University, and I imagine he’ll improve plenty during that time. He’s not the most audacious pick among players remaining, but I think he’s done enough to earn borderline first-round consideration.
What Others Have Said
Former USNTDP Assistant Coach Chris Luongo (via The Athletic):
“He plays at both ends of the ice. He’s not tall but he’s a thick kid. His strength and the ability to make plays using it and distribute the puck makes him special.”