Wisconsin goaltender Luke Opilka has signed with the OHL Kitchener Rangers, forgoing his collegiate career.
The news comes a day after reports surfaced that the incoming freshman would not play for the Badgers. Opilka, a St. Louis native, was taken by Kitchener in the sixth round of the 2013 OHL Priority Draft.
By signing with the Rangers, Opilka, a fifth round pick in last week's NHL Draft by his hometown Blues, can also sign a professional contract if St. Louis wants, which appears to be the case. That's an option unavailable in college.
Connect the dots w/ Opilka. STL draft pick. STL Sr. Advisor Al MacInnis' son plays for Kitch. Al played for Kitch. Al is Kitch owner.— Andy Johnson (@AndyJohnsonB5Q) July 2, 2015
The 6'1", 192 lbs goaltender had a .833 save percentage with three shutouts and a 2.77 GAA in 36 USHL games playing for the United States U-18 team. He also won a gold medal in April with the United States at the IIHF World Under-18 Championships.
Badgers head coach Mike Eaves was quoted in a statement released by the University saying, "Luke had an opportunity to turn pro and pursue his dream and decided that the window of opportunity was now. We want to wish him luck in pursuit of his dreams."
Opilka officially leaving Wisconsin is the latest blow for the Badgers. After going 4-26-5 last season with a young roster that featured 11 freshmen, Eaves' team returns with only one player that scored more than 14 points and missing two of its biggest commits for 2015-16. Opilka was supposed to replace Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson, both of whom graduated.
Now the Badgers must either find a freshman goalie to take Opilka's place over the summer or rely on walk-ons Adam Miller and Gabe Grunwald.