Now that former Badger Justin Schultz and the Pittsburgh Penguins have won their second straight Stanley Cup, the NHL looks to the joys of the off-season.
Things get started quickly this week in the NHL with Expansion Draft lists posting on Sunday and the National Hockey League Entry Draft set for Friday in Chicago.
Last year’s Entry Draft was huge for Wisconsin, with five Badgers players or commits being taken in the first five rounds, including first-round choices Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic.
Despite a strong bounce-back year from Wisconsin that saw the Badgers nearly make the NCAA tournament, it seems unlikely that UW will replicate its 2016 showing.
Though the pool of 2017 draft-eligible Badgers lacks a clear first-round selectee, several Wisconsin commits may hear their names called in Chicago over the weekend.
(Here’s a quick primer on how the Entry Draft works; basically players 18 years old as of Sept. 15 and not older than 20 by the end of the year are eligible.)
Wisconsin has seven 2017-18 expected enrollees: spring 2017 signees Joshua Ess (D), Wyatt Kalynuk (D), and Linus Weissbach (F); and early signees Tarek Baker (F), Jason Dhooghe (F), Sean Dhooghe (F), and Tyler Inamoto (D).
A few other draft-eligible commits, including the Madison Capitols’ Mick Messner, may join Wisconsin this season but are more likely to arrive in 2018-19.
Anthony, last year, the Badgers had five players/commits drafted in the first five rounds, including two in the first. Do you expect anything close to a repeat of last year?
Unfortunately, this year is a soft year in terms of NHL Draft prospects committed to Wisconsin going high in the draft. I expect Tyler Inamoto to be the highest selected anywhere from late-second round to early-fourth round. Mick Messner and Linus Weissbach are two other prospects I have as mid/late-round considerations, but they may go undrafted.
Is there a Badger player/commit who might be flying under the radar right now? Is there anyone who might be taken earlier than expected?
I am really keen on Mick Messner, who has impressed me in over 10 viewings in the last year. He’s a heady two-way player who has really good puck possession that will allow him to maximize his development over the long haul. Based on last year’s over-ager explosion, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Linus Weissbach go earlier than projected. He was a top 60 pre-draft year player for me who just happened to stay small and frail, thus making him fall in his draft year. Coming to the US, committing to NCAA hockey, plus his pure talent and speed, may entice teams this year.
Which 2017-18 commits should Wisconsin fans get excited about? I’ve got my eye on Tyler Inamoto. What do you think?
I agree with you, Jon. He has the most pedigree as a thumper with skill who will have an NHL team watching his progression closely after they draft him. He’s like JD Greenway in that he has a lot of raw potential that still needs refining. Sean Dhooghe, while it’s unclear if the NHL will make him one of the shortest ever selected, has potential to be an immediate fan favorite after being one for NTDP. It may not take long for Dhooghe to bring his pesky, high-octane antics to the NCAA and be productive.
Do you think that the presence of Tony Granato and the rest of the coaching staff change the way NHL teams look at the Badgers? Does Tony Granato’s NHL pedigree have any impact on the way teams look at Badgers players or commits?
I know I appreciate his approach to the game, and it certainly doesn’t hurt. Granato has definitely helped mold some upper-echelon prospects, with the latest being the hotly debated Trent Frederic. As long as NHL Draft-talented recruits keep coming through the pipeline and developing well, the program will be viewed in a good light.
The NHL Entry Draft starts at 7:00 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN.