After easily the darkest season in recent Wisconsin Badgers hockey history, any glimmer of hope is a welcome sight. With the annual NHL Draft being played out over the past two days it was a chance to celebrate potential and the future for some big time players.
Despite recent struggles, Mike Eavesâ€™ team continues to stockpile talent that the NHL loves. Over the course of two days the Badgers were represented by two players in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Incoming freshman goaltender Luke Opilka, a product of the US Development program, was selected in the fifth round of the draft by the St. Louis Blues (No. 146 overall). Joining him was sophomore forward Cameron Hughes, who was picked in the sixth round by the Boston Bruins (No. 165 overall).
Hughes finished his campaign in 2014-15 with 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 29 games played for the Badgers.
On the other hand Opilka comes to the Badgers as one of the most highly-rated incoming freshmen goaltenders in NCAA hockey. He was rated as the No. 12 overall goaltender in North America in this draft.
Last season with the US U-18 team playing a USHL schedule, Opilka went 25-7 in net and had a 2.77 goals against average to go with a .883 save percentage. Opilka also faired comparatively well against the collegiate competition that the U-18 NTDP got to play in exhibition matches.
The only player missing out on a draft spot was freshman defender Matthew Freytag, who was rated as the No. 132 prospect by NHL central scouting. Heâ€™ll stake for UW this upcoming season after spending almost all of the last two years playing for the Tri-City Storm out of the USHL.
With those two picks today, Wisconsin will open the 2015-16 season with seven players on the roster that are NHL Draft picks. Joining Hughes, Opilka and Freytag areÂ Grant Besse (Anaheim), Jedd Soleway (Arizona), Jack Dougherty (Nashville), Matt UstaskiÂ (Winnipeg) and Eddie Wittchow (Florida).