One of the biggest names in college hockey is set to join the professional ranks, as Luke Kunin has signed an entry-level deal with the Minnesota Wild. He’ll start on an amateur tryout for the remainder of this season, with his entry-level deal kicking in next fall. This had been expected for some time, but Wild fans can finally uncross their fingers and let out a sigh of relief. The University of Wisconsin center will be an interesting option for the NHL team as soon as next year.
Selected fifteenth overall last summer, Kunin returned to Wisconsin for his sophomore season and improved in basically every way. Scoring 38 points in 35 games to lead his team, he improved his defensive game and took fewer penalties while being more physical. He was given the captaincy of the Badgers, the first sophomore to wear the “C” in over four decades, and also wore the same letter for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. He is a born leader on and off the ice, and may one day wear something on a Minnesota Wild sweater.
Given the Wild’s fairly deep forward group, Kunin may have to wait a year in the AHL before making his mark on the big stage. That shouldn’t slow him down though, as he’s heading for the NHL one day to be sure. With Iowa in a very tight race for the final playoff spot in the Central Division, Kunin will get a taste of the tight-checking hockey he’ll have to face down the line. It will be a good learning experience for him as he jumps right into the fire.
Kunin represents one of a handful of top Minnesota prospects that will start to replace the aging core of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville over the next few years. Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov and Alex Tuch all look like they’ll be impact players in the NHL one day, as the Wild continue to show off their drafting skills. While they battle with the Chicago Blackhawks for the crown of the best in the West, there are more good days ahead for the Minnesota franchise and their fans.