Since Wisconsin men's hockey coach Mike Eaves took over the job in 2002 he's seen the state of recruiting change on more than a few occasions. The Badger program was stung by the loss of Ryan Suter after school had already started due to the impending lockout in 2004 and the subsequent change in rookie salaries in the new collective bargaining agreement. The Badgers were burned again after winning the National Championship in 2006 with the late losses of superstar forwards Joe Pavelski and Robbie Earl to the pros.
The loss of Pavelski and Earl was mostly due to the new NHL hard salary cap and the pressure NHL GM's were putting on prospects to sign because of their relatively cheap entry level salaries compared to veteran players. Wisconsin wasn't the only school affected as the top players on WCHA teams were consistently pulled out of school early. The subsequent over reaction was many schools like Wisconsin over-recruiting in anticipation of losing players which caused some negative backlash.
Eaves has changed his recruiting strategies again and it's apparent in their current list of committed prospects. At this time, the Badgers have only five known verbal commitments past this season. For any of you who have followed Wisconsin recruiting the past five seasons you know how low of a number that is. Don't get me wrong, the Badgers are fine, but it's a change from past years where for the most part Wisconsin had already already filled out close to two future classes at this point.
More on Badger hockey recruiting after the jump.
One of the biggest reasons that the Badgers have only five verbal commitments past this season right now is they don't anticipate losing much next year. Wisconsin only has one senior on the roster with defenseman Eric Springer which is rare but due to early departures from Jordy Murray, Derek Stepan, and Jake Gardiner and the redshirting of Ryan Little the senior class stands at one. However, Springer won't be the only loss as barring minor miracles juniors Justin Schultz and Craig Smith will be playing their final seasons in Madison with both players already having their respective NHL teams pushing for them to sign contracts.
Taking a look at those five commitments, the star right now looks like California native Nic Kerdiles, a forward from the USA NTDP. Kerdiles started last season on the U17 squad but was promoted to the U18's for much of the season and won a gold medal with them at the IIHF U18 World Championships. Kerdiles will be back with the NTDP U18's this season and Badger fans will even get a preview of the young blue chipper as the U18's will face Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in an exhibition game on New Years Eve.
Corbin McGuire, a 2012 forward recruit started last season with Fargo of the USHL but after sitting out well over a month with a concussion was loaned to Springfield of the EJHL for the remainder of the season. McGuire struggled in the move to Springfield but started to turn it on at the end of the year and in the playoffs. McGuire informed Bucky's 5th Quarter on Sunday night that he plans on playing for Springfield again this season instead of returning to Fargo.
"I really like the coaches at Springfield and they will work with me to make me better. Also I had the support from the coaches at UW to stay in Springfield because they think it's a great place to play for my game."-Corbin McGuire
The third forward recruit who the Badgers have lined up for 2012 is Morgan Zulinick from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL. When Zulinick was initially recruited he too was looked at as a blue chip prospect. Zulinick was slowed last season due to a separated shoulder and nagging injuries but still was one of the most productive players for the Silverbacks. His stock hasn't been tarnished and recruiting guru Chris Heisenburg still lists Zulinick as the top 2012 prospect coming out of the BCHL. Despite being a high draft pick in the WHL Zulinick is expected to return to Salmon Arm before coming to Madison in 2012.
The only known defense recruit that Mike Eaves has lined up right now is Green Bay native and Notre Dame Academy senior to be Tim Davison. The young blueliner is currently committed for 2012 or 2013 depending on his development and departures and currently is weighing his options on where he will play next season. Davison recently had his USHL rights traded from Youngstown to Chicago and just over a week ago participated in their tryout camp. According to Wes Hood from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Davison made the Steel's 30 man roster but is undecided on if he will play in Chicago next season or return to NDA for his senior year.
Eaves did pick up a goalie recruit in Gabe Grunwald and he is currently the only recruit lined up for sure to come in 2013 when projected starter Joel Rumpel will be a junior for the Badgers. Grunwald, who should be two years out of high school by the time he comes to Wisconsin in 2013 told Bucky's 5th Quarter in an interview he plans to play the next two seasons in Canada in the OJHL, the same league where former Badgers Brendan Smith and Cody Goloubef honed their skills.
"I will most likely be playing for the Newmarket Hurricanes, a Tier 2 Jr. A team based out of my hometown in Ontario. They finished first place overall in the OJHL last year and will probably have another great year next year. The team also contains a strong goaltending alumni there as well, which includes Curtis Joseph and Dan Ellis."-Gabe Grunwald
So what the current known recruits lack in quantity, they make up for in quality as all five players would be classified as 4 or 5 star players in the traditional Rivals.com and Scout.com rankings with Zulinick and Kerdiles leading the way. It's been a while since the Badgers received a commitment but I wouldn't be surprised if that were soon to change as assistant coaches Bill Butters and Gary Shuchuk have been working their tails off the past few months scouting and recruiting players. The future is in good hands.
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