Wisconsin hockey recruiting: Badgers add 6'6" center Matt Ustaski for 2014-15

Ustaski chose the Badgers over Colgate, Ohio State and Cornell, and was also being recruited by all the big-time Ivy League schools.

Matt Ustaski had already made up his mind where he wanted to go to college, but he figured he'd wait until Tuesday morning to make it official. In Madison for his official visit, Ustaski made his pledge to Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves that he was going to be a Badger over breakfast on his way out of town.

"It was a really good visit," Utaski said via phone from Vancouver Tuesday evening. "I had obviously seen the campus before, but they took it to another level. It was just a good fit for me."

A 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward from the Langley Rivermen of the British Columbia Hockey League, Ustaski is known for his ability in the faceoff circle and deceptive speed.

"I'm an all-around good player," Utaski said. "I have a really hard shot, which is effective in the slot when I get the puck and get good opportunities. I can use my size well down low to protect the puck. Most people don't think I'd be very fast for my size, but I've been told I have some pretty good wheels for being 6-foot-6."

Ustaski visited Wisconsin's capital city on an unofficial visit in August and has been a participant at Mike Eaves' hockey schools in past years. After watching Ustaski at the BCHL showcase in Chilliwack in early Spetember, assistant coach Gary Shuchuk convinced Ustaski to come back to town for an official visit.

Living just two hours from Madison in Glenview, Ill., Ustaski's parents, Mike and Lynn, accompanied Matt on his official visit to Madison Monday. Mike said they were blown away by everything at UW.

"Even on the unofficial visit, Wisconsin, to me, I knew as a dad right away that they have all the tools in place for the hockey program for a player to move on," Ustaski said.

Mike noted Wisconsin's strength and conditioning coach, Jim Snider, as well as the academic performance staff as a few of the outstanding resources at UW that made the decision easy.

"Just another spoke in the wheel, but Wisconsin has a lot of spokes in the wheel," Mike Ustaski said. "They have their stuff together."

Ustaski previously took official visits to Colgate and Ohio State, and had an official set up at Cornell for next week that he will no longer be taking.

After the tour wrapped up Monday, Ustaski said the Badgers coaching staff urged the family to mull the decision over a private dinner. Before they could even get back to their car, a decision had been reached.

"I said, 'so Matt, what did you think of your visit?' And he goes, ‘Dad, I want to be a Badger.' He said ‘this is the school that I want.' My wife and I both looked at each other, and we agreed."

Ustaski will be on campus for sure next fall, and will likely be joined by U.S. NTDP U-18 centerman Ryan Wagner, also an Illinois product from Park Ridge. The Badgers are likely looking to bring in 4-6 additional forwards next fall depending on NHL early departures.

An intelligent kid who played at Lake Forest Academy in high school, Ustaski also heard from schools like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Union and Princeton.

The exciting part about Ustaski is that his potential ceiling as a player is unknown. According to his father, Ustaski was just 6-foot-2, 185-pounds as a high school senior. Over the past two years he's grown four inches and put on close to 40 pounds. The Chicago Blackhawks liked his package enough to invite him to a prospects camp over the summer.

Given Wisconsin's potential departures offensively, Ustaski should have an opportunity to play early for the Badgers, which is something he was looking for in a school. Either way, things at Wisconsin just felt right.

"Coach Eaves said, ‘Matt, in your heart you're going to know what to do in the end.' I could tell last night that Wisconsin was in his heart, and that was it.

"He's ready to be a Badger. He's really excited.

For more hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter --
You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

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