One constant theme with good hockey teams is their ability to produce a balanced lineup. Mike Eaves subscribes to that theory, and that's why on top of having players who can put the puck in the net, he's recruited players who can provide a physical edge to give the Badgers some toughness.
The role can be filled in a variety of ways. A guy like Nick Licari was more of an agitator during Wisconsin's 2006 national championship run, while a player like Ben Grotting was more of physical, grinding forward that would wear on teams. On UW's current roster, Ryan Little seems to be a mix of both of those players.
With Little graduating at the conclusion of the season, it appears Eaves has found his successor. As first reported by @OTBPuckWatch, Wisconsin has received a verbal commitment from Brookings (NAHL) forward Aidan Cavallini.
'92 F Aidan Cavallini of the NAHL's Brookings commits to Wisconsin. Former Taft (NE-Prep) stand-out. St. Louis Selects/CHI Mission product.— Over The Boards (@OTBPuckWatch) March 18, 2013
NCAA rules prohibit Eaves from commenting on players who are not signed to national letters of intent. Cavallini is expected to join the Badgers in the fall of 2013.
Cavallini is referred to as what some in the business call a "suitcase." The 1992-born forward played two years of bantams in Chicago, two years of midgets in St. Louis and two years of high school at Taft Prep in Connecticut. After graduating, Cavallini has made stops in junior hockey in the ECHL with South Shore, the USHL in Chicago, the BCHL in Langley and the NAHL in Alexandria and Brookings, where he currently resides.
Cavallini started the year in the EJHL with South Shore, but came to Brookings at mid-season.
"He came to us mid-season, and has been a great addition since he's been here," Brookings assistant Chris Olsen said. "We wish we would have had him all year."
In the 30 games for Brookings since he moved back to the NAHL, Cavallini has notched 11 goals and 21 points. Olsen said he sees time on both the penalty-kill and the power play, and is one of the toughest kids to play against in the league.
"Physical kid, strong kid, probably the strongest player on the team in the weight room," Olsen said. "Good skater, but being a physical forward is probably his best attribute."
The bloodlines are certainly there for the 5-foot-10, 181-pound Cavallini. His father, Gino, played 593 games in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Quebec Nordiques. Gino also spent three full seasons in Milwaukee with the Admirals from 1993-96, shortly after son Aidan was born in January 1992.
Gino is currently running the Chicago Mission AAA hockey program. The Badgers have been recruiting that program heavy the past couple seasons, receiving commitments from elite players Peter Tischke, Christian Dvorak, Jake Linhart and Seamus Malone.
Cavallini's uncle, Paul, also played 564 games in the show with stops in Washington, St. Louis and Dallas.
Cavallini has racked up 74 penalty minutes in just 30 games so far with Brookings, and Olsen noted that he might have to reign that in at the next level.
"He's not a kid that we'll put out there strictly to fight, he's more skilled than that," Olsen said. "But there's been an occasion or two where his emotions maybe got the best of him over the past few months."
Olsen also noted that Cavallini has something in him that you can't teach: intensity.
"He's an intense kid -- he's got a streak in him."
While he's got the ability to put points on the board, a checking-line role is where you can expect to see Cavallini the next few seasons as a Badger.
"Physically, he will be fine," Olsen said of Cavallini making the move to college hockey. "I think he still needs to find a quarter-of-a-step with his speed to adjust, but I think if he's given a fourth-line role of not giving up any (goals) against, he's probably a good player to fit that role."
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