Luke Kunin Hopes To Go From Wisconsin To Wild

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports NHL: NHL Draft

After a standout sophomore year with the Wisconsin Badgers, Luke Kunin turned pro and continued to turn heads this spring while playing for the AHL's Iowa Wild.

On the heels of a 22-goal season at UW, the 19-year-old team captain joined the Minnesota Wild's AHL affiliate and skated in 12 games, scoring five goals and eight points.

At 6-foot, 196 pounds, Kunin isn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he plays a hard-nosed game and appears poised for NHL success.

Kunin Nets Hat Trick In Third AHL Game

The fearless forward battles hard and was one of the most impressive Wild players during the development camp. He's also an intriguingly cheap option for a cap-strapped team with high ambitions.

After Minnesota re-signs restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, the team will have 11 locks on the offense, leaving a couple spots up for grabs. Pending moves, Kunin will either make the team as the 12th guy or start the season in the AHL, where he will be able to play each night.

Granlund and Niederreiter are each slated for significant raises after breakout seasons. Newcomer Marcus Foligno is also set for a new contract. The other 16 roster players account for roughly $56 million of the $75 million salary cap.

Add in the $2.5 million cap hit from the Thomas Vanek buyout and the Wild have about $16.5 million to re-sign Granlund, Niederreiter, and Foligno and add another four players for the 23-man roster. 

Drafted 15th overall in 2016, Kunin will start his entry-level contract this season after officially signing with the team in March. He would bring a very manageable cap hit of $925,000 to the strong central team that has watched its division opponents bolster their lineups.

The natural center also brings the ability to play at any of the three forward positions, which is often hard than it sounds given handedness, breakouts, and comfort and awareness.

It's not all about money, though. It's about what's best for the player's development as well as the organization's long-term future.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

5 NHL Teams That Could Use Jaromir Jagr In 2017-18

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres

By Jacob Messing

The NHL is a month and a half into free agency, and the growing trend of ageism is claiming another group of veterans.

Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek, and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr are just a few of the formidable players still searching for new contracts.

Jagr, 45, remains a force on the ice despite having his worst full season in terms of point production. Last year, he tallied 46 points; the year before, with similar ice time and games played, he reached 66 points. However, he was stuck on a surprisingly underwhelming Florida Panthers team that was dealing with a reconstructed defense, significant injuries, and front-office turmoil.

5 NHL Breakout Candidates For 2017-18

© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets

By Jacob Messing

With each new season, fans get to see breakout performances from some of the NHL’s emerging talent. These budding superstars show glimpses of the league’s future.

While some players are stuck in the developmental level of their careers -- learning hockey at its highest level -- others consistently deliver highlight-reel action every time they step onto the ice. Last season, players such as Viktor Arvidsson, Mikael Granlund, and Nikita Kucherov moved from the former category to the latter. Who could do the same this year?

Introducing The U.S. Olympic Hockey Coaching Staff

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins

By Jacob Messing

The reality of a 2018 Winter Olympics without NHL players is sinking in after the recent announcement of the U.S. men’s national team’s coaching staff.

Last week, the brass for the United States named its coaches for the upcoming international tournament, starting with Wisconsin Badgers head coach Tony Granato, who will serve in the same role for Team USA.

A Radical Solution To The NHL's Inconsistent Suspension Policy

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

By Jacob Messing

In 2016-17, the NHL had its lowest numbers of suspensions since the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.

The number of suspensions, cumulative games lost, and number of NHL teams that had a player suspended were all meaningfully lower than the previous three seasons.

'Soap Hockey' Offers Slippery Alternative To Backyard Pickup Games

The Soap Hockey Project Soap Hockey

By Jacob Messing

What happens when six people try to play hockey on a soap-slicked tarp in the middle of the summertime?

Apparently, they found the answer in Sweden. It’s called “Håsjösåpan,” and it’s sweeping the internet.

No NHL, No Problem: AHL Players With Olympic Potential

© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports NHL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive

The NHL recently issued a statement to its teams that AHL players can be released for Olympic participation in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

3 NHL Teams That Are Hoping Blue Line Upgrades Lead To Offensive Spark

© Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports NHL: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks

This summer hasn't seen the blockbusters of Taylor Hall for Adam Larson or P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, but a number of teams have completed savvy trades to land experienced, productive defensemen. These moves will prove more important on the ice than they may initially seem on paper. 

St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo Poised For Career Year

© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues unwrapped a somewhat hidden present in Alex Pietrangelo after the team traded Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline last season.

Fantasy Hockey: Dark Horse Player For Each Eastern Conference Team

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

The NHL offseason is winding down after a busy summer of high-profile free agency moves, league expansion, and entry draft selections.

Fantasy Hockey: Dark Horse Player For Each Western Conference Team

© Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports NHL: St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets

The 2017-18 fantasy hockey season is approaching fast, and since your league members are already preparing so should you.