In the past two weeks, three skaters from three different countries signed national letters of intent to join the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s men’s hockey team for the 2017-2018 season. The Badgers look to shore up the back-end with the signing of two defensemen including Joshua Ess from Lakeville, Minnesota and Wyatt Kalynuk from Virden, Manitoba. They also bolster their talent at the forward position with Swedish forward, Linus Weissbach.
Joshua Ess was a standout in his senior year of high school, scoring 13 goals and adding 26 assists in 36 games, while leading his team into the state tournament and earning him a spot on the Associated Press All-State Third Team. After the season, the 5-11, 185-pound defensemen joined the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Rough Riders for two games, posting one assist.
It is fairly uncommon for a skater to play on an NCAA roster the year after they graduate from high school. Most play for club organizations and junior leagues to hone their skills before making the jump the next lever, but Ess seems ready earlier than most.
“Josh makes the simple play, the right play, 90 percent of the time,” associate head coach Mark Osiecki told uwbadgers.com. “He is a very, very high-level passer. It is on the forward’s tape quickly. He’s a very intelligent hockey player.”
Kalynuk, unlike Ess, spent the entirety of last year in the USHL, leading all Bloomington Thunder defensemen in scoring with 31 points. He earned USHL Defenseman of Week on Jan. 2. Kalynuk was ultimately named to the All-USHL Third Team at the end of the season.
“He’s a very smart two-way defenseman,” head coach Tony Granato told uwbadgers.com. “He sees the game very well.” Osiecki added that “his vision is one of his very, very big strengths. He knows where his other four teammates are on the ice pretty much all the time. You watch him play, his ability to bring the puck out of the zone and get it to the forwards is very appealing.”
Linus Weissbach, slightly undersized at 5-8 165-pounds, managed to lead the Tri-City Storm of the USHL in scoring with 19 goals and 28 assists through 49 games. Those totals were nearly good for a point per game from the Swedish forward and positioned him 16th overall in league scoring. Weissbach, like Kalynuk was named to the All-USHL Third Team.
When asked about Weissbach’s strengths, Osiecki pointed to his speed and explosion as his main assets.
“His strengths are his explosiveness, high skill level and he can do things skill-wise at a high pace. He is a goal scorer. He has a really good nose for the net, but his pace of play is fun to watch. It is going to put other teams on their heels.”
Kalynuk, Ess and Weissbach are all skilled at their positions, and Granato had encouraging words for the group as a whole.
“They are all elite,” he told uwbadgers.com. “We are looking to upgrade our skill. I think the one thing the group has, in general, is that they are competitors and character guys. They are all good leaders. We are looking for them to be impact players right away.”
The Badgers have now signed seven total players going into next season, and hope to use this fresh talent to reach even greater heights in their quest for the Frozen Four.