With a very young team and not much turnover expected the next couple of seasons, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves has been very selective in extending scholarship offers. However, Eaves recently jumped at the chance to lock up a commitment from 2014 recruit Jake Linhart, an elite defenseman from Brookfield, Wisconsin who plays for the Chicago Mission U16 program.
It's rare for Wisconsin to offer a 15 year old a scholarship, so it's a testament to his potential to earn an offer this early. Linhart's coach, former NHL'er Gino Cavallini considers the 5'10, 160 pound blue-liner a special player.
"This kid is truly a gem, and will continue to improve especially being only 15 years old. I am certain there are schools out there that wish they could have had a shot at him."
Bucky's 5th Quarter was able to talk with Linhart recently about his recruitment, his talented Chicago Mission squad, and the tradition of Wisconsin churning out NHL caliber defensemen.
B5Q: You’ve made your decision on where you’re going to play college hockey choosing the University of Wisconsin. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to become a Badger?
Linhart: "Ever since I went to the 2006 Frozen Four and saw the Badgers win the National Championship it became a dream of mine to someday play for Wisconsin and have a chance to be on a team like that. The hockey facilities at Wisconsin are the best in the country. It offers me the chance to become the best hockey player that I can be. And of course, the great education."
B5Q: What were some of the other schools you were considering and did you take any visits?
Linhart: "Notre Dame, North Dakota, Boston College, and Boston University. I did visit Boston College and Boston University this past summer."
B5Q: You’re only 15 which is pretty young to make such a big decision. In fact there are only eight 1996 born players with verbal commitments right now. Why did you feel the need to make a decision at this point?
Linhart: "Wisconsin was my number 1 choice. There was no need to wait. Any other schools I had interest in were only if I didn't have an opportunity to play for the Badgers."
B5Q: The Badgers have been churning out NHL defense prospect after NHL defense prospect. Guys like Ryan McDonagh, Jamie McBain, Brendan Smith, Ryan Suter, Justin Schultz, Jake Gardiner, and the list goes on and on. I would assume that you are honored that a school producing that kind of talent offered you a ride at the age of 15?
Linhart: "Yes. I am honored to get a chance to play for my home state school and to wear the same jersey as some of those great players."
B5Q: You’re going to be eligible for the OHL draft soon. Is "The O" something that you’ve considered or are you focused on going to college?
Linhart: "I really didn't give the OHL much consideration."
B5Q: You’re with the Chicago Mission U-16 squad this season and your team is doing very well. You’ve also got another D-1 recruit on the roster with Nick Schmaltz. Talk a little bit about your current team and the teams goals for the season.
Linhart: "Last years team was ranked #2 in the country and we lost in the National Championship game to the #1 ranked team. We have most of the players back from that team. We are currently 21-1-2 so far this season. We are a young team of mostly 15 year olds with a few 16 year olds. I expect a lot of my teammates to make college commitments this year."
B5Q: Next season you’ll have a decision to make on where you’re going to play. If you have an opportunity with the NTDP or Junior hockey are those things you would be interested or do you think you’ll spend another year or two with the Mission?
Linhart: "Depending on what my best opportunities are will determine where I play. I definitely have an interest in NTDP and Junior Hockey."
B5Q: Notre Dame Academy head coach Cory McCracken who is also the GM of Team Wisconsin U16 described your game as, "Very good offensively without sacrificing the defensive portion of the game. Excellent skater. He is the 96 version of Jordan Schmaltz." Would you consider that accurate? How do you describe your game?
Linhart: "I haven't had much of a chance to see Jordan Schmaltz play but I am friends with Nick his brother. And from what I've heard he is a phenomenal player and to be compared to someone like that is a great honor. I describe myself as more of an offensive defenseman. I love moving the puck up to the forwards and then joining the play. I also like the power play and leading that as well."