Wisconsin hockey: Checking up on the recruits

Brock Boeser (No. 12) battles for positioning in an Upper Midwest High School Elite League game - Matt Christians

The puck is starting to drop all over the globe, and all of Wisconsin's current commits have started their seasons. As it stands right now, the Badgers have 12 current commitments. That number is expected to rise rapidly over the next few months, as the coaching staff looks to fill out the 2014 recruiting class.

I had a chance to take in a few games from the Upper Midwest High School Elite League over the weekend, including a game between committed recruits Brock Boeser and Matt Berkovitz. Both players scored in the game, with Boeser netting two goals in a 4-4 tie.

I saw Berkovitz play a few weeks ago, and he looked as good, if not a tad better on Saturday. Even as a defenseman, Berkovitz isn't afraid to jump in the play when he sees an opportunity. One scout I talked to compared him to former Badger Kyle Klubertanz. It's not hard to see the comparison -- both players see the game from the back end at an exceptionally high level and have great puck skills. Like Kluby, Berkovitz isn't very physical and needs to continue to get stronger.

Saturday's viewing of Boeser was the first time I've seen him play since the sectional finals at Mariucci Arena last spring. Boeser missed the early part of the fall season with an illness, but has recovered nicely. Boeser started Saturday's game a bit slow, but continued to get better as the game wore on. Was really impressed with the release on Boeser's shot, and thought his elite hockey IQ really showed up after paying attention to the intricacies of his game.

Wisconsin's two recruits from Dubuque of the USHL -- Keegan Ford and Seamus Malone -- took part in the U.S. Top Prospects game in Pittsburgh on Thursday. After a quick turnaround, both players were in the lineup for the Fighting Saints Friday night. Malone didn't waste any time, notching a goal and an assist in the season opener vs. Waterloo, and Ford chipped in two assists on the weekend as well.

2016 forward recruit Luke Kunin is off to a fast start with the U.S NTDP U-17 team. After a hat trick in his first game, Kunin has added a pair of goals to lead the club with five goals in five games to start the season.

Goaltender recruit Gabe Grunwald surfaced in the new Eastern Hockey League this fall with the New York Bobcats, and seems to be off to a solid start. After being pushed back a year, Grunwald is 1-1-1 with a .932 save percentage, and picked up his first win of the season Saturday when he stopped 33 of 34 shots in a 2-1 victory over New York Applecore.

As previously mentioned, the Badgers still have quite a bit of work to do in filling out their '14 recruiting class, especially at the forward position. The UW coaching staff has been spotted all over North America this month watching various players, and don't be surprised to see some activity on the commitment front in the near future.

UW assistant Gary Shuchuk was in Alberta over the weekend at the AJHL showcase. Shuey has also made recruiting stops at the U.S. NTDP in Ann Arbor, the BCHL showcase in British Columbia, the USHL Fall Classic in Sioux City as well as the NAHL showcase in Minnesota all over the past month. Can't say these guys are hitting the recruiting trail hard.

Wisconsin could also use a defenseman for next fall, given the fact it's a strong possibility Jake McCabe doesn't return for his senior season. While Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove, Minn.) from the U.S. NTDP U-18 team is drawing most of the headlines, Matthew Purmal (Merrill, Wis.) of the Green Bay Gamblers is a name people are talking about in recruiting circles as someone to keep an eye on.

Two uncommitted Team Wisconsin forwards that looked good once again last weekend were Charley Graaskamp (Eau Claire Memorial) and Michael Wilson (Fond du Lac). Graaskamp is more offensively gifted with his stick, but Wilson can bump in the corners and fight for loose pucks. At this point they've clearly separated themselves as Team Wisconsin's top two forwards, at least in my opinion.

Looking down the road a little bit, Wayzata's Max Zimmer is a name Badgers fans should file away. The sophomore forward is off to a fast start in the Elite League, and looked exceptional when I saw him again over the weekend. Zimmer is of course high school teammates with current UW commit Matthew Freytag. Wouldn't surprise me to see the Zimmer end up in cardinal and white down the road.

Committed Wisconsin Recruits - Skaters

Player Pos Team Arrival Size Games G A Pts
Matt Berkovitz D Ashwaubenon HS 2014 or '15 6-1, 175
Team Wisconsin U18 15 3 8 11
Brock Boeser F Burnsville HS 2015 or '16 6-0, 188
Team SE (HS Elite League) 6 5 0 0
Keegan Ford D Dubuque (USHL) 2014 5-8, 180 2 0 2 2
Matthew Freytag F Wayzata HS 2015 or '16 5-11, 180
Team NW (HS Elite League) 6 2 0 2
Luke Kunin F U.S. NTDP U-17 2016 5-10, 173 5 5 0 5
Jake Linhart D Green Bay (USHL) 2014 5-10, 176 4 0 2 2
Seamus Malone F Dubuque (USHL) 2015 5-10, 165 2 1 1 2
Tony Stillwell D Notre Dame Academy 2016
Team Wisconsin U-16 5-7, 145 13 1 9 10
Peter Tischke D Chicago (USHL) 2014 6-1, 193 4 0 0 0
Ryan Wagner F U.S. NTDP U-18 2014 5-8, 173 5 1 1 2

Committed Wisconsin Recruits - Goaltenders

Player Team Arrival Size Games Record Sv % GAA
Gabe Grunwald New York (EHL) 2014 6-3, 195 3 1-1-1 .932 2.59
Luke Opilka U.S. NTDP U-17 2015 6-0, 181 4 2-1-1 .849 3.31
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