With Justin Schultz and Craig Smith emphatically announcing their intentions to return to the Wisconsin hockey team next season, the only question mark remaining this off-season is the status of senior to be Jordy Murray.
Andy Baggot updated us last week with Murray's situation. If you're not aware, he started playing hockey in Switzerland when his father was coaching over there. Under the current rules, Murray doesn't have to be classified as an import player (Swiss pro teams can only have 4), so he's due to make substantially more money this way. But the rules are possibly changing and if they take away this loophole, he stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if he doesn't sign soon.
Speculation has already begun about possible replacements for Murray's roster spot should he make the move to professional hockey. Currently Waupaca senior Brad Navin is the only committed player who could be brought in but it's likely the coaching staff would prefer he play at least one full season in the USHL if not two. The Badgers don't NEED to bring in another player if Murray leaves as they will still have 15 forwards but freeing up Murray's scholarship money allows UW head coach Mike Eaves the flexibility to add a premier offensive threat.
Baggot identified a potential player that fits that description in St. Albert Steel (Alberta Junior Hockey League) forward Reed Linaker. Baggot notes that Linaker was in Madison on campus for a visit last month. To add more fuel to the fire, Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Shuchuk is currently in Canada recruiting and tweeted today that he's in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta which just so happens to be the same hometown of Mr. Linaker.
Linaker who saw his third season in the AJHL come to an early end when he tore his MCL has put up impressive numbers for St. Albert. As a rookie Linaker put up 39 points in 47 games. Last year he registered 81 points in 54 games. And this year saw him net 52 points in 34 games before the MCL injury.
The 19 year old 5'9, 165 pound forward can return to junior hockey next season so it's possible that even if Murray returns to the Badgers they may still pursue him for the 2012 season. 2012 will see the Badgers lose Murray to graduation, and most likely Craig Smith as an early departure. They bring elite forward recruits Nic Kerdiles from the USA NTDP and Morgan Zulinick from Salmon Arm in the BCHL as well as possibly Corbin McGuire and Brad Navin.
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