What the 2016 NHL Draft means for the future of Wisconsin men’s hockey

Entering the 2016-2017 season, Wisconsin’s Men’s Hockey team is promising to “knock your socks off” –and we’re already starting to see results. In March, the Badgers announced a new coaching staff consisting of Mark Osiecki and brothers Tony and Don Granato promising the beginning of a new era for Men’s Hockey at UW-Madison.

Head coach Tony Granato has already shown his dedication to improving the team by signing defenseman JD Greenway and goalies Jack Berry and Johan Blomquist for the 2016-2017 season. Greenway was one of the five Badgers selected in last weekend’s NHL Draft.

Defensemen Philip Nyberg (Buffalo Sabres), center Luke Kunin (Minnesota Wild), and forwards Max Zimmer (Carolina Hurricanes) and Trent Frederic (Bostin Bruins) were also drafted in addition to Greenway (Maple Leafs).

Associate head coach Don Granato has also played an important role in contributing to the new start for the Badgers. Kunin (drafted 15th overall) played for two years under D. Granato on the U.S. National team. Kunin is the highest draft pick for the Badgers since Kyle Turris (3rd overall, Phoenix Coyotes), Ryan McDonagh (12th overall, Montreal Canadiens) and Brendan Smith (27th overall, Detroit Redwings) were all selected in the first round of the 2007 NHL Draft.

With a new focus on scouting and recruiting, Osiecki will also become an integral part in the new program dynamic. Having coached for teams such as the Rockford Icehogs, the USA World Junior team, and the Green Bay Gamblers, Osiecki has mentored the likes of Matt Greene and Stanley Cup Champion Adam Burish.

Within the B1G, Michigan and Michigan State had three incoming and current players selected in this year’s draft, while Penn State had two of its class of 2016 graduates sign to European leagues: Connor Varley signed to Manchester Storm within the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League, and Curtis Loik signed to the EHC Linz Black Wings within the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga.

The 2016 NHL Draft serves as a new form of confidence for coaches and players alike. In addition to the new coaching staff, a successful showing at the NHL Draft adds to create a new sense of confidence in the Badgers that the program has not seen since the Bob Johnson and Jeff Sauer era.

The 2016-2017 season will be transitional. With more players being drafted and attracting a national audience, players are not only focusing on their Badger careers but their future AHL/NHL careers as well. All of this, in addition to the implementation of a new, experienced coaching staff, may be the added pressure that the Badgers need to start October with a spark.

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