Days after being drafted by his hometown St. Louis Blues, incoming freshman goalie Luke Opilka is reportedly changing plans away from the University of Wisconsin. according to Wisconsin radio announcer Brian Posick and confirmed by former Bucky's Fifth Quarter beat writer Andy Johnson.
With incumbent Joel Rumpel and backup Landon Peterson both graduating, the net was Opilka's to lose.
The likely move would be to the OHL and Kitchener, which owns Opilka's OHL rights, having drafted him in the 6th round (102nd overall) of the 2013 Priority Draft. Wisconsin could block Opilka moving to any other college since he signed a Letter of Intent with the Badgers earlier.
It wouldn't be the first time the Rangers were able to convince a college-bound goalie to play in the OHL. John Gibson, who like Opilka played in Ann Arbor with the US Development Program, reneged a commitment to the University of Michigan for Kitchener. Last month Michigan State defenseman Josh Jacobs left the Spartans for Sarnia.
The 6'1", 192 lbs Opilka won a gold medal in April with the United States at the IIHF World Under-18 Championships. He had a .833 save percentage with three shutouts and a 2.77 GAA in 36 USHL games. The U-18 team also played several college teams in exhibitions, beating such Big Ten schools as Wisconsin and Minnesota.
St. Louis selected Opilka in the fifth round with the 146th overall pick.
Opilka's departure is the latest in what has been an ongoing trend with Wisconsin, which won only four games last season and finished near the bottom of every category. High-end recruits Christian Dvorak (London - OHL) and Brock Boeser (North Dakota) decommitted from Mike Eaves' team before coming on campus. Keegan Ford left mid-year. Third-leading scorer Morgan Zulinick left Wisconsin after the season in order to spend more time with his son and assistant coaches Gary Shuchuk and Matt Walsh were fired.
(Even the Badgers media hasn't been spared. Johnson retired from Bucky's Fifth Quarterand Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot was sadly one of several veterans laid off by the paper.)
Wisconsin is left with redshirt senior Adam Miller and redshirt sophomore Gabe Grunwald in net short of bringing in another goalie. Neither goalie played last season and only Miller, who gave up 3 goals on 27 shots to Boston College in 2013, has played a college game.