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Wisconsin hockey recruiting: Badgers sign 6 recruits to National Letters of Intent

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Wisconsin's recruiting class is highlighted by two players from the U.S. NTDP and four more skaters from the USHL.

U.S. NTDP U18 captain Luke Kunin is one of the highlights of Wisconsin's recruiting class
U.S. NTDP U18 captain Luke Kunin is one of the highlights of Wisconsin's recruiting class
Richard T Gagnon - Getty

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves announced the signing of six recruits to National Letters of Intent, pending admission to the university.

U.S. National Team Development Program teammates Luke Opilka and Luke Kunin join Matt Berkovitz (Sioux City), Matthew Freytag (Tri-City), Seamus Malone (Dubuque) and Peter Tischke (Chicago) as members of the Badgers' 2015 recruiting class.

"The underlying common denominator about this class is that it is a dynamic group," Eaves said in a release. "These are high-level kids who have good hockey IQ and bring a good skill set to the table."

The obvious omission is Brock Boeser, who decommitted from the Badgers in mid-November. Wisconsin is still recruiting the Waterloo Black Hawks' forward, and he'll take an official visit to Madison on Saturday. Boeser visited North Dakota last Friday and is also believed to be considering Minnesota.

Regardless of where Boeser ends up, this is one of the more talented recruiting classes for the Badgers in some time. They add three quality forwards that should give the offense an immediate boost next season. They also add a play-making defenseman and a shut-down type blueliner on the back end. The coaches have also signed a premier goaltender that will be selected relatively high in he NHL Draft to replace Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson between the pipes.

Player Photo

Name

Position

Shoots

Height

Weight

Peter Tischke

Defense

Left

6'1

213

Team

Hometown

DOB

Chicago Steel (USHL)

Hinsdale, Ill.

1/3/1996

Tischke is in his second full season with the Steel after joining the team in 2012-13. Prior to his time in juniors, the left-handed shot skated four seasons for the Chicago Mission. From Bantam Minor to U-16 (three seasons), he registered 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists). In his final campaign with the program, he recorded 11 points (one goal, 10 assists). The Hinsdale, Illinois, native played 56 games during the 2013-14 season for the Steel, gathering nine assists. This season, Tischke has two goals and 11 points in 19 games played.

Eaves on Tischke: "He's a big lad that moves very well. He's very physical and makes a good first pass. He likes to play against the other team's best players, so he will bring a physical element to the team."

Player Photo

Name

Position

Shoots

Height

Weight

Seamus Malone

Center

Left

5'9

165

Team

Hometown

DOB

Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)

Naperville, Ill.

5/6/1996

Now in his third season in the country's top junior league, Malone leads Dubuque with 21 points on five goals and 16 assists in 19 games played. He had 26 goals and 55 points in 2013-14, which was a substantial increase from the 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) he tallied the year prior. The left-handed shooter was chosen during the 2012-13 season to participate with the U.S. U-17 Team at the Five Nations Tournament in Finland. Malone recorded four points, equally split between goals and assists, in four games with the national team. Malone was recently chosen to compete in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge with the U.S. Junior Select Team, which will play Dec. 14-20 in Kindersley, Saskatchewan.

Eaves on Malone: "He's another dynamic player. He's fun to watch and one of those guys who make people move to the edge of their seats once he gets the puck because of the exciting things that can happen."

Player Photo

Name

Position

Catches

Height

Weight

Luke Opilka

Goaltender

Left

6'1

192

Team

Hometown

DOB

U.S. NTDP U18

St. Louis, Mo.

2/25/1997

Opilka is in his second season with the U.S. National Team Development Program. Playing for the St. Louis AAA Blues U-16 team in 2012-13, Opilka recorded a 1.55 goals against average and .927 save percentage in 22 games. Last season, he played 30 games, picking up 14 wins and a tie, while posting a 3.59 goals against average versus some of the best competition in the country. He also had a .863 save percentage. The St. Louis, Missouri, native competed in the 2014 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game and was one of its stars, saving 22 of 23 shots--good for a .957 save percentage. He also played two games at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in which Team USA placed second. Opilka had a 1.50 goals-against average and .927 save percentage at the tournament. In 13 games with the U.S. U-18 squad this year, he is 10-3-0, with a 2.67 goals-against average, .900 save percentage and two shutouts. Among his victories this season are wins at Minnesota and Miami.

Eaves on Opilka: "Luke is a fine young goaltender. He has good height and knows the position well. He'll be coming from the world championships at the under-18 age and will probably have already played 30 college games by the time he gets to us. He'll be a good add to our team after losing Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson."

Player Photo

Name

Position

Shoots

Height

Weight

Matthew Freytag

Left Wing

Left

6'1

193

Team

Hometown

DOB

Tri-City Storm (USHL)

Wayzata, Minn.

2/17/1997

Freytag is in his first full season with the Tri-City Storm after joining the team for eight games at the end of last year. The 6-1, 193-pounder wore a Wayzata High School jersey before making the transition to juniors. Freytag, a left-handed shot, recorded 37 points (22 goals, 15 assists) in 25 games during 2012-13 with Wayzata and added 13 goals and 27 points in his final season of high school hockey last year. After the completion of his high school season, he joined the Storm and assisted on one goal in eight games in 2013-14. Freytag has four goals and 12 points in 18 games for Tri-City so far this season.

Eaves on Freytag: "He's a very gifted forward who has good size and really shoots the puck well. He brings an element of being able to put the puck in the net, which every team needs."

Player Photo

Name

Position

Shoots

Height

Weight

Matt Berkovitz

Defense

Left

6'1

181

Team

Hometown

DOB

Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

Green Bay, Wis.

2/16/1996

Berkovitz, a fifth round (123rd overall) 2014 NHL Draft pick of Anaheim, is in his first season in the USHL, playing for the Sioux City Musketeers. The 6-1, 181-pound Green Bay, Wisconsin, product previously played four years at Ashwaubenon High School and two with Team Wisconsin. Over his high school career, Berkovitz amassed 120 points as a defenseman, including 41 (11 goals, 30 assists) in his senior season. The lefty shot increased his point total with Team Wisconsin from one in 2012-13 to 13 (three goals, 10 assists) the next season.

Eaves on Berkovitz: "He is a heady defenseman who sees the ice well and who knows how to keep the play in front of him. He will be a fun player to watch as a young defenseman here."

Player Photo

Name

Position

Shoots

Height

Weight

Luke Kunin

Center/Right Wing

Right

5'11

188

Team

Hometown

DOB

U.S. NTDP U18

Chesterfield, Mo.

12/4/1997

Kunin is in his second season as a captain with the U.S. National Team Developmental Program following a stint with the St. Louis AAA Blues U-16 Team. The 5-11, 187-pound center posted a whopping 30 goals and 68 points in just 34 games with the Blues in 2012-13. Last year with the U.S. NTDP, Kunin had 20 goals and 18 assists in 52 contests. He competed with Team USA at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, helping his team to a silver medal with six points (two goals, four assists) in as many games. So far in 2014-15, the right-handed shooter has five goals and six points in six games against USHL competition, while totaling 10 goals and 18 points in 25 games overall.

Eaves on Kunin: "He's a forward who is very dynamic. He's a captain of the under-18 team and brings some leadership skills to us. He sees the ice well and has the skill to compliment that vision."

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