The NCAA early signing period opened up in the middle of last week and the Wisconsin men's hockey team used it to to to add some depth and some talent to a team that is projected by many to be a Frozen Four caliber club in the near future.
With only one senior set to graduate, and one underclassman projected to leave early and sign a pro contract at the outset of the season, Mike Eaves and the Wisconsin hockey program could be choosy on who to bring in for the 2012 recruiting class.
Eaves settled on three recruits, two forwards and one defensemen. The forwards are Nicolas Kerdiles (Irvine, California) from the U.S. National Team Development Program, and Morgan Zulinick (Kamloops, British Columbia) from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League. The defenseman is Kevin Schulze (White Bear Lake, Minnesota) from the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.
Nicolas Kerdiles: U.S. National Team Development Program U18
- Hometown: Irvine, California
- Position: Center/Left Wing
- Size: 6'1, 196
- Handed: Left
- Other schools considered: Michigan, North Dakota
Kerdiles on why he chose Wisconsin: "Wisconsin has always been high on my list because of the instant interest they showed me right off the bat. They were the first to send me a questionnaire, and also really wanted me to talk to them as much as I could. I have always loved Wisconsin and they have a great track record, and I believe they are the best University for hockey to develop and get better and I have a great chance to win a National Championship with them." (Sixty Minutes Interview)
Coach Eaves: "He’s a big forward with great feet, good first step and is really good in the corners. For his age group, he’s one of the top players in the country." (UWBadgers.com Press Release)
- Scouting Report: "He’s been able to produce against the USHL, NCAA and now international competition. Additionally, Kerdiles is a versatile player. He’s not all offense, and he’s not a passive player. Kerdiles just gets things done, and the fact that he’s producing at a high clip is an exciting development."-Chris Peters (United States of Hockey)
- Chuck's Thoughts: Kerdiles is the definition of a blue chip recruit. He's arguably the number one forward recruit in the country for 2012 and should provide an immediate impact next season for the Badgers. He can play either center or LW and will be immediately thrust into a top 6 forward role.
- Additional Notes: Kerdiles is projected to be a first round NHL Draft pick by many publications. He's been outstanding in international competitions for Team USA, most recently winning the gold medal at the Four Nations Cup. Kerdiles led the tournament in scoring with five goals in three games.
Morgan Zulinick: Salmon Arm Silverbacks, BCHL
- Hometown: Kamloops, British Columbia
- Position: Center
- Size: 5'11, 185
- Handed: Left
- Other schools considered: North Dakota, Colorado College
Zulinick on why he chose Wisconsin: "The fact that Wisconsin was a Big Ten school, and in a great location made my decision easy. The campus was beautiful and I couldn't believe the arena. The second I stepped into the Kohl Center was when I knew I wanted to play there." (Sixty Minutes Interview)
Coach Eaves: "He’s an offensive forward playing in British Columbia. He sees the ice really well and protects the puck well. He’s a very strong competitor who will bring an offensive flair to our forward group." (UWBadgers.com Press Release)
- Scouting Report: "Zulinick is explossive, and makes his teammates better with his great vision and playmaking ability. He is a fantastic skater, has unbelievable poise and hockey smarts, is very dependable at both ends of the ice, and possesses a very good shot."-Dan Sallows
- Chuck's Thoughts: Zulinick isn't garnering the headlines like Kerdiles due mostly to the fact that he's playing in Canada, but he's another elite forward. The Zulinick/Kerdiles combo is one of the most potent combination of 18 year old forwards the Badgers have brought to town in recent memory.
- Additional Notes: Zulinick is starting to generate more draft buzz as the season goes on but isn't a lock to get drafted. Red Line Report author Kyle Woodlief recently told the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot that his reports on Zulinick are good but needs to see him more to generate a better assessment.
Kevin Schulze-Omaha Lancers, USHL
- Hometown: White Bear Lake, Minnesota
- Position: Defense
- Size: 5'9, 165
- Handed: Left
- Other schools considered: Maine, Bemidji State
Schulze on why he chose Wisconsin: "I had been talking with a couple other schools throughout the last couple of months, but after visiting Madison and talking with the coaches there I knew that Wisconsin was the perfect fit for me. Not only hockey wise but academically as well." (Bucky's 5th Quarter Interview)
- Coach Eaves: "Kevin is a real smooth skating young defenseman. He sees the ice very well and can make a really good pass. For his size, he plays very aggressively and very well away from the puck." (UWBadgers.com Press Release)
- Scouting Report: "Kevin is a versatile defenseman who uses his feet and moves the puck very well. We'll count on him to show up in the score sheet with regularity." -Kevin Patrick, Head Coach, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
- Chuck's Thoughts: With Justin Schultz projected to turn pro, the Badgers are only projected to start next season with seven defensemen unless this experiment with Gavin Hartzog on defense works out. Schulze moves the puck really well and should challenge for playing time immediately.
- Additional Notes: Was recently traded from Muskegon in the USHL to Omaha. Muskegon was struggling with their goaltender situation and were forced to deal one of their best assets in Schulze to shore up their struggles stopping the puck. Depsite being a defenseman, Schulze is fourth on the Lancers in points with 9 in 14 games (between 2 teams).