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Signing class brings high-end offensive talent to Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey

November 20, 2018

There almost certainly will be more additions to the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey freshman class for 2019-20, but the first five members all could be NHL draft picks.

The Badgers on Monday confirmed the signing of four forwards — Cole Caufield of Mosinee, Alex Turcotte, Owen Lindmark and Dylan Holloway — and defenseman Mike Vorlicky. All five last week completed a National Letter of Intent with UW that’s contingent on the player gaining admission to school.

Caufield and Turcotte are likely first-round picks in the 2019 NHL draft, and Holloway has been mentioned as a potential first-round selection when he becomes eligible in 2020.

NHL Central Scouting has Lindmark as a fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-round pick in 2019. Vorlicky dropped off after being listed on early draft rankings during his junior season at Edina (Minn.) High School last year, but Badgers coach Tony Granato thinks the defenseman will get picked next June.

Granato is starting to see more of the high-end scoring talent that committed early in his coaching tenure at UW get closer to joining the team. That could transform the top lines and bring a high level of depth next season.

Turcotte, Lindmark and Holloway committed as 15-year-olds in the first nine months that Granato was on the job in 2016.

Caufield and his brother Brock, a UW freshman, changed their commitments to the Badgers from Ohio State late last year. Vorlicky accepted UW’s offer in January.

“They’ve all continued to grow as fast as we’d had hoped,” Granato said. “Probably, in some cases, faster. So they’ll be ready to jump in and help us offensively out of the gate.”

Caufield, a right wing, challenged Auston Matthews’ NTDP record of 55 goals last season but finished one short at 54 in 59 games. He has started this season by scoring 16 goals in 20 games.

Turcotte and Lindmark, both centers, have been limited by injuries, but Turcotte had 63 points in 58 games last season for the U.S. Under-17 Team. Lindmark chipped in 37 points in 61 games.

Holloway, a left-handed wing, was the AJHL’s player of the month for October and leads the league with 40 points in 25 games. He was the only player on Canada’s championship roster for this year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup who didn’t play for a major junior team.

“He’s a special one, that’s for sure,” Granato said.

Vorlicky, a puck-moving defenseman, had 15 points in 22 games in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League before the prep season began.

Granato said that if Vorlicky gets drafted and progresses as anticipated, he’d rather have him with the Badgers for three years than give up one of those years to a United States Hockey League team.

“And the other factor is he’s ready to play,” Granato said. “If he wasn’t ready, we’d have him play in the USHL or another year somewhere else. But we think he’s ready to play.”

From the infirmary

Granato said it was too early to tell on Monday whether the Badgers would have goaltender Daniel Lebedeff and wing Jason Dhooghe available when they play at No. 14 Michigan on Friday and Saturday.

Both were injured in the second period of last Friday’s loss at Ohio State and didn’t return in the series.

The Badgers already have played the past six games without left wing Linus Weissbach because of an injured right hand. Granato said Monday that it’s possible that Weissbach, a strong power-play presence, will be able to play at Michigan but his return is more likely to be against Penn State on Nov. 30.

UW hasn’t found a good fit for the left side of the power play in Weissbach’s absence and has gone 2-for-25 in the past six games. The Badgers are 1-5 without him.

“Linus is missed, but we’re going to have to find ways without him to be productive on the power play,” Granato said.

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