Months before he took to the ice for the first time as a member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Zayde Wisdom was already a favorite among the Philadelphia Flyers fan base. His inspiring story and unwavering work ethic made him an easy prospect to pull for. At the same time, no one could imagine the early AHL success he would experience.
Just nine games into his AHL tenure, Wisdom leads all Phantoms in points with nine. His six goals are also tied for the team lead with Maxwell Willman. Though it took until his third game to get on the scoresheet, Wisdom finds ways to produce in bulk when firing on all cylinders. Of the five games he’s recorded points, three of them are multipoint contests. Also, Wisdom already has two two-goal AHL games under his belt.
As we know, not all points are created equal. The number of goals or assists an individual produces does not always accurately demonstrate their talent or skill set. In reality, perceived talent occasionally becomes inflated due to numbers. However, this is not the case with Zayde Wisdom’s performance with the Phantoms thus far. On the contrary, his production has highlighted the positives he will bring to the ice daily.
At the young age of 18, Zayde Wisdom’s playstyle is already defined by his relentless desire to put forth maximum effort on every shift. Until a play is blown dead, expect his foot on the gas pedal, doing whatever it takes to get a quality attempt on goal. He loves to battle in front of the net and is reaping the rewards of making that his office.
Although he is a net-front presence, it is not simply a case of obstructing a netminder’s view and deflecting pucks. Wisdom is getting the puck there on his own stick, creating chances up close. Even when he doesn’t have possession, he crashes the net with an understanding that the puck will end up there eventually. For the opposition, Wisdom wants to be a handful consistently. Accounting for his blend of intensity and skill easily translates into a lot.
At times, Wisdom is Lehigh Valley’s best player. Instead of appearing like a rookie, he comes off as a player with substantial professional experience. Remarkably, he wouldn’t even be in the AHL if this was a normal year. Due to the NHL/CHL agreement, he would still be playing in Kingston. Of course, that would not be the case if he made the Flyers roster. Now, it’s irresponsible to assume he is ready for the NHL right now. However, one can argue that returning to the OHL is a step backward. If he is already succeeding with the Phantoms, remaining there seems like the best thing for his development. Unfortunately, that is non-negotiable at this point.
As is the case with most fourth-rounders, Wisdom remains far from polished. His game still needs to improve in order to one day make an impact at the NHL level. Of course, nobody wants him to turn down his intensity. However, there are times where it results in getting out of position defensively. Considering where he will eventually slot in on Philadelphia’s roster, Wisdom is needs to sure up his defense and positioning.
Obviously, he has time to improve. Even though Wisdom has come out of the gate strong in Lehigh Valley, expect Philadelphia to show patience with him. There is no need to rush a potential bottom-six asset just because promoting him would prove to be a popular move. Expect him to return to the OHL when they begin playing again and likely stay there for next season as well. If he can make the impact he is with the Phantoms; there is no reason he cannot assist in Kingston’s ascension as a key piece.
From the minute Philadelphia drafted Zayde Wisdom in the 2020 NHL Draft, he became one of the most intriguing stories within their prospect pool. Watching his hard work pay off in a league he logistically would not be in if it were a regular year is something everybody can get joy out of. Although his debut with the Flyers is still a while from now, he will be a fun prospect to keep an eye on.