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Wisconsin men’s hockey: who’s going pro and who’s coming in?

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A number of Badgers are going pro and one high profile transfer is coming in from across the border.

2019 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

The defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team is going to look extremely different next season. After a disappointing end to the season featuring losses to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament title game and then being upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Bemidji State a number of players have chosen to move on to the professional ranks.

Let’s take a look at who will be playing hockey elsewhere next year (or the end of this year in some cases).

Ty Emberson, Arizona Coyotes (Tucson Roadrunners)

“We are very pleased to sign Ty to an entry-level contract,” said Arizona Coyotes General Manager Bill Armstrong. “Ty is a good two-way defenseman who can play in all situations. He is another good prospect for us, and we look forward to monitoring his development.”

Emberson will report to the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL) after captaining the Badgers to the Big Ten title. The Eau Claire native earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades after tallying four goals, nine assists and 13 points in 31 games this past season. He finished his Badger career with nine goals, 25 assists and 34 points in 101 games. He led the Badgers at plus-15 and ranked 13th in the nation with an average of 2.00 blocks per game in 2020-21.

Linus Weissbach, Buffalo Sabres

Weissbach’s two-year entry level contract doesn’t start until next season. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Todd Milewski notes that Weissbach was considering returning to Madison for a fifth year before deciding to turn pro.

“Very skilled,” Buffalo head coach Don Granato, Tony’s brother, said. “Smaller player, competitive player. Shifty, agile, fun to watch and always a threat to make a play. He’s competitive, so that makes it fun to watch as well.” Weissbach also has history with Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, with whom he was teammates in the Frölunda organization in Sweden.

Weissbach had 12 goals and 41 points in 31 games for Wisconsin this year as a senior.

Ty Pelton-Byce, Manitoba Moose

The Madison native signed a one-year contract for the 2021-22 season with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, the top minor-league affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. He will join the club on an Amatuer Tryout contract for the rest of this campaign. Pelton-Byce had 12 goals and 19 assists in 24 games for the Badgers this past season.

“With the type of year we had, the players were the ones who performed well and you expect NHL teams to recognize that,” head coach Tony Granato said. “Ty was definitely one of those players and he is getting rewarded. I’m glad we got a chance to coach him and I’m excited to see him take the next step in his life and his hockey career.”

Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Laval Rocket)

Caufield signed a three-year entry level contract with the Canadiens and, according to reports, should be making his debut with the Laval Rocket on Friday night. Coincidentally his first pro game will be happening while the winner of the Hobey Baker Award is announced. You may remember that Caufield is one of three finalists, and the prohibitive favorite, for the award.

Big Ten Player of the Year and Hobey Baker finalist, the Stevens Point native leads the country with 30 goals and 52 points in 31 games. He holds a 12-goal advantage over the next closest goal scorer. He also became the first Badger since 1990 to tally 30 goals in a season.

“Cole had as good of a year as I’ve ever seen any college player have. His competitiveness, his hunger, his character as a kid blossomed and helped our team become an elite team,” head coach Tony Granato said. “I can’t wait to watch him as a pro. We’ll be cheering for him and looking forward to him having an impact for Montreal in the near future.”

Transfers in to Madison

The Badgers goalie situation will have an added contender next season with former Minnesota Golden Gophers netminder Jared Moe announcing that he’ll be transferring across the border to Wisconsin.

Gophers starting goalie Jack LaFontaine announced that he’ll be returning for another season which did not leave much playing time between the pipes in Minneapolis as LaFontaine will be one of the best goalies in the country next season.

“I’m sure when we play at Minnesota I’ll get some good chirps thrown at me,” Moe told Todd Milewski, who has three years of eligibility remaining after two seasons with the Gophers. “Probably some that I can’t repeat.”

The Badgers will also be getting some help up front via the transfer portal as former Bowling Green center Max Johnson is coming to Madison for his final year of eligibility. Johnson, per his BGSU bio, has connections to UW as both his father and uncle played football for the Badgers. Milewski also notes that one of his sisters and mother went to Wisconsin as well.

He is the 74th player in BGSU program history to reach 100 career points and will provide a needed offensive boost for the Badgers who, as you probably noted above, lost a LOT of offensive production.