The initial pieces of what could be a transformational 2019 freshman class are formalizing their pledges to join the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
Forwards Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and Owen Lindmark of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program each signed a National Letter of Intent with the Badgers on Wednesday, the first day of the signing period.
Forward Dylan Holloway from the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and defenseman Mike Vorlicky of Edina (Minnesota) High School also said they planned to sign this week.
Because the Badgers haven’t yet confirmed the five signings, which have to go through processing by UW Athletics officials, coach Tony Granato and his staff aren’t yet able to comment publicly about the players.
The signings are contingent on the players being admitted to school over the coming months. That hasn’t been a given in recent years — admissions issues have played a role in four decommitments by players who have signed a letter of intent.
Caufield and Turcotte are likely first-round picks in the 2019 NHL draft, and Holloway has been mentioned as a potential first-round selection in 2020. Lindmark has been projected as a fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-round pick in next year’s draft by NHL Central Scouting.
Vorlicky was listed on early draft rankings during his junior season last year but dropped off.
The additions next season stand to remake the top lines of the forward corps with an injection of talent and scoring ability.
Turcotte and Lindmark have been limited by injuries this season, 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.
Caufield, a Mosinee native whose older brother Brock is a Badgers freshman, 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 18 games.
Holloway was the AJHL player of the month for October and leads the league with 38 points in 23 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.
Vorlicky, a puck-moving defenseman, had 15 points in 22 games in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League before the prep season began.
The Badgers have six seniors on this season’s roster — four forwards and two defensemen.
Defenseman Brady Smith, the only Badgers recruit left who originally committed to previous coach Mike Eaves, said he decommitted on Sunday and has reopened his recruiting process.
Smith, an 18-year-old who committed to UW in July 2015 at age 14, declined to comment further.
He’s in his third season in the United States Hockey League and was traded to the Sioux City Musketeers before this season.