The Wisconsin hockey team has been churning out NHL ready defensemen on seemingly an every year basis since Mike Eaves took over the program in 2002. That trend will undoubtedly continue and is hard to overlook, especially for an in-state player. The Badgers took anther step forward recently, landing one of the top 1996 born defensemen in the country. According to a tweet from the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot, the Badgers have received a verbal commitment from Brookfield, WI native Jake Linhart.
Linhart currently plays for the prestigious Chicago Mission program at the U16 level and is the Badgers first commitment for the 2014 season. Last season Linhart played for the Mission 1996 team and recorded 24 points in 31 league games. Previous to his time with the Mission, Linhart played for the Team Illinois program.
The 5'10, 160 pound Linhart has been on the radar of scouts the past few seasons. He was selected to participate in the USA Hockey Select 15 festival this past summer and the Select 14 festival the summer before. With a solid season with the Mission this winter, Linhart should put himself on the radar for a possible invitation to the USA NTDP.
Chicago Mission U16 head coach Gino Cavallini, a former NHL player talked about Linhart with the Wisconsin State Journal Monday. Cavallini called Linhart a special player, and one of the top 10 defensemen in the country for his birth year.
Bucky's 5th Quarter discussed the Linhart commitment with Notre Dame Academy head coach Cory McCracken, who is also the GM of the Team Wisconsin U16 squad. McCracken was extremely complimentary of Linhart, and compared him to another Wisconsin born defenseman who is a projected first round NHL draft pick this summer.
"Linhart is a quality player. Very good offensively without sacrificing the defensive portion of the game. Excellent skater. He is the 96 version of Jordan Schmaltz."
At this point, Linhart is only the eighth 1996 born player to have given a verbal commitment to an NCAA school. Nick Schmaltz (Jordan's younger brother), who is a teammate of Linhart's with the Mission U16 team and is from Verona, WI is one of the eight. He's given his pledge to Dave Hakstol and North Dakota.
The Badgers now have seven verbal commitments past this season. They include 2012 forwards Corbin McGuire, Nic Kerdiles, and Morgan Zulinick and 2012 defenseman Kevin Schulze. Also committed are 2013 goalie Gabe Grunwald and 2013 defenseman Tim Davison.
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