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2018 NHL Draft profile: Jake Wise is one of this draft’s top centres

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Given the importance of building up the middle, will the Leafs look to add a centre with their first round pick?

CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Today’s profile will look at Jake Wise of the US National Under-18 Team, a two-way centre with impressive numbers in the USHL this year, despite playing behind a future superstar in Jack Hughes. Wise did not rank in the Top 31 of April’s Consolidated Draft Rankings over at Canucks Army, and I expect him to be off the board anywhere in the #20-#40 range. Wise was in the “just missed” list of my most recent Draft Rankings, but he’s slowly risen up my board into the top 27 or so.

Wise is listed at just 5’10”, but his slightly above average speed and tenacity allows him to generate takeaways and contribute in both ends of the rink. I haven’t seen him generate zone entries as often as Rasmus Kupari or Jonatan Berggren, but he’s at least average in this area, and his all-around game provides him with a chance of developing into a second line centre.

USHL Single Season Point Per Game Production Since 2010-2011

Player Team PPG
Player Team PPG
Jack Hughes USNTDP 2
Auston Matthews USNTDP 2
Jack Eichel USNTDP 1.88
Oliver Wahlstrom USNTDP 1.73
Clayton Keller USNTDP 1.61
Taylor Cammarata Waterloo 1.58
Sonny Milano USNTDP 1.56
Jake Wise USNTDP 1.56
Joel Farabee USNTDP 1.54
Jack Roslovic USNTDP 1.52
Kieffer Bellows USNTDP 1.39
Matthew Tkachuk USNTDP 1.38
Johnny Gruden USNTDP 1.36
Jeremy Bracco USNTDP 1.33
Kyle Connor Youngstown 1.32
Alex Tuch USNTDP 1.23
Andrei Svechnikov Muskegon 1.21
Johnny Gaudreau Dubuque 1.2
Christian Fischer USNTDP 1.2
Brock Boeser Waterloo 1.19

Wise’s point per game production stacks up with NHL talents such as Sonny Milano and Jack Roslovic from recent years. While he’s benefited from a 23% shooting percentage, this is somewhat common on this team, as Jack Hughes (23%), Wahlstrom (17%), Farabee (16%), and Gruden (25%) also carry above average numbers in this area.

A Glimpse of Wise in Action

Wise is a slightly above average puck carrier and a pass-first centre. He gains the zone with speed, stops to elude the defender, then fires a cross-ice pass to Cole Caufield (a top 2019 prospect) here:

Wise shows off his speed and creativity here, by dumping the puck in and winning the footrace. Just when it looked like Canada’s defenders were about to stop him, Wise used his speed to generate an entry:

Hughes and Wahlstrom are usually on the outside of the 1-3-1 powerplay, leaving Wise to play in the middle. However, Wise gets an opportunity to play on the outside in the GIF below, and shows off his scoring talent. While he does not shoot all that often, he does boast a rather strong shot:

Wise is comfortable quarterbacking a powerplay, and offers the ability to score off of a one-timer. His numbers might have been even better had Jack Hughes went to play in the OHL instead, as Wise would likely have more opportunity:

Wise is coordinated and gritty enough to play in the middle of the powerplay. He shows off his wrist shot below, after sneaking into the slot for a scoring chance:

Final Thoughts

Wise stands out for his puck carrying skill in the offensive zone, as well as his ability to set up his teammates. He is a two-way centre in a draft that lacks talent up the middle, and he’s rocketed up my rankings into the Top 31. He should be able to play in all-situations, but the big question will be whether or not he can be a strong point producer at 5-o- 5.

I currently prefer Wise to Ryan McLeod, as I think he is a better scorer and carries a better chance of being a second line centre rather than a third line centre. He’s never blown me away offensively, and I see him as a slightly above average skater, rather than a great one, but he’s talented enough as a carrier to develop into a strong secondary scoring option.

As a centre on the same team as projected 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes, Wise has been stuck on the second line, rather than playing with a huge goal scorer in Oliver Wahlstrom. Had Hughes gone the OHL route, Wise may have found himself centring Wahlstrom and Joel Farabee on the top line, while playing a larger role on his team’s powerplay.

Wise was one of USA’s top scorers at both the U17 and U18 tournaments, and his numbers on the US under 18 team compare well with NHL talents such as Jack Roslovic and Sonny Milano. While I hear a lot of interest in CHL centres from Leafs fans, Jake Wise continues to fly under-the-radar, and should be taken in the #20-40 range. If the Leafs are especially interested in adding a centre, expect Wise to be on their shortlist. He has committed to play at Boston University next year, and is likely to play for the United States at the World Juniors.