The 2019 NHL Draft may seem like a long way away, as does the 2019-20 season, but the excitement is real and right now in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers today announced the commitment of five star prospect Cole Caufield to play hockey at the University of Wisconsin, beginning in 2019. Caufield is considered a potential top-ten pick in two years.
Caufield, 16, is a current member of the U.S. National Development U-17 Team. He and his brother, Brock Caufield, had both previously committed to Big Ten rival Ohio State University, but decommitted earlier this year. Brock, 18, announced his commitment to Wisconsin last week and will join little brother Cole in 2019. However, only the younger brother has drawn draft interest, and in a big way. A recent ranking of 2019 prospects by TSN’s Craig Button had Caufield as the eighth-best prospect. While the scoring winger lacks size in a major way – he currently stands at 5’6″, 146 lbs. – he has years left of growth and development remaining and Button believes that his offense speaks for itself regardless of his stature. Besides, the NHL is growing more and more comfortable with smaller, speedier players, as evidenced by 5’8″, 154-lb. Kailer Yamamoto’s selection by the Edmonton Oilers at #22 this past June. Like Yamamoto, what really counts is the production and Caufield has scored at nearly two points per game so far with the USNTDP. By 2019, a slightly larger Caufield could easily fulfill his draft projection.
Meanwhile, the Badgers are quickly becoming known for their ability to recruit high-end talent. The 2017-18 roster contains nine NHL drafted players, including a pair of promising Boston Bruins prospects in 2016 first-rounder Trent Frederic and 2015 sixth-round steal Cameron Hughes, and just graduated another 2016 top pick, Minnesota Wild rookie Luke Kunin, this past year. And that’s just the beginning; Wisconsin has ten 2018 draft eligible (and likely to be drafted) players coming to Madison next year, including potential first-round defenseman K’Andre Miller, and another peer of Caufield’s, a likely 2019 first-rounder, in Alex Turcotte coming the year after. These are exciting times for Wisconsin hockey.