Coming off a 4-26-5 season a year ago, the Wisconsin Badgers were looking to turn things around this season. They thought they had one of the top incoming goaltender recruits in the country, but that has all gone up in smoke.
Luke Opilka had already enrolled in summer classes at Wisconsin after starring for the U.S. National Development program’s U-18 squad. He was expected to take over as the starting goaltender for the Badgers this coming season.
Then came the 2015 NHL Draft. Opilka was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the fifth round (146th overall). Instead of playing a year or two with the Badgers, Opilka has decided to turn professional. Opilka is headed for the Ontario Hockey League and is expected to play for the Kitchener Rangers next season.
As a part of the U.S. NTDP in Ann Arbor, Michigan last season, Opilka went 25-7-0 with a 2.77 goals-against average, .833 save percentage and three shutouts. One of those victories included a 4-1 victory over the Badgers at the Kohl Center last December. He was also part of the U.S. Under-18 Team that captured the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship this past spring.
Opilka’s departure leaves the Badgers extremely thin at goaltender. The top two goaltenders from last season, Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson both graduated. It leaves only redshirt senior Adam Miller and redshirt sophomore Gabe Grunwald, who have a combined two games of experience.