The Wisconsin hockey team's incoming class received a stamp of approval by the NHL as four Badgers freshmen were selected on day two of the draft on June 24.
Tyler Inamoto, a fifth-round draftee of the Florida Panthers led the way, followed by Linus Weissbach (Buffalo Sabres), Wyatt Kalynuk (Philadelphia Flyers), and Joshua Ess (Chicago Blackhawks), who were each chosen in the seventh round.
Over the past two seasons, Inamoto split time between the United States National Team Development Program of the USHL and the U.S. national team. The Chicago native has tallied two goals and eight points in 31 USHL games.
The left-shot defenseman experienced some growth with the U.S. Under-18 team, scoring two goals and 13 points in 51 games. Inamoto was a member of the USA World Juniors squad that claimed the gold this past season, but he failed to record a point in seven tournament games.
Weissbach, drafted 192nd by the Sabres, is a 5-foot-9 Swedish winger who has lit up the scoresheet in each of his past two seasons. In 2015-16, the sly forward scored 17 goals and 48 points in 44 games with Sweden's Under-20 team, Frolunda HC.
This past season, Weissbach moved his game to the USHL, scoring 19 goals and 47 points in 49 games with the Tri-City Storm. The undersized European showed impressive skill and perseverance in his transition to the North American game and will be a large part of Badgers coach Tony Granato's system in 2017-18.
Four picks after Weissbach, the Flyers selected Kalynuk, a defenseman from Manitoba. Kalynuk has played the past three seasons in the USHL, posting new highs in goals, assists and points each season. In his first 114 games, split between the Lincoln Stars and Bloomington Thunder, he scored three goals and 39 points.
This past season, the agile defender tallied six goals and 31 points in 60 games. The Flyers have shown a knack for developing good defensemen in recent years and could have a good impression on Kalynuk during his development camp ahead of the NCAA season.
What a day! Honoured to be selected by the @NHLFlyers Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point. Dream come true!— Wyatt Kalynuk (@Wkalynuk17) June 24, 2017
Another defensemen, Ess is undersized for the trend of NHL blue lines at 5-foot-11. He's a puck-mover with poise and has impressive numbers with Lakeville South High during the past three years. In 111 USHS games between 2014 and 2017, Ess tallied 26 goals and 97 points.
His game obviously impressed the Blackhawks brass, which has shown an eye for talent and selected him at No. 215, the third-to-last player chosen in the 2017 draft.
It's evident the Badgers want to get stronger on the blue line. It's the highest number of Wisconsin defensemen ever taken in the same draft year, suggesting the Badgers have a strong team on the horizon once the freshmen adapt to the collegiate game.
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