Adding an NHL draft prospect late in the recruiting cycle is a bonus, University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach Tony Granato said.
But the Badgers also left themselves some wiggle room on the off chance that someone like Ryder Donovan would come along as a possibility to add to an already high-level incoming freshman class for 2019-20.
Donovan committed to the Badgers last week and signed a National Letter of Intent on Monday. That paperwork had been processed by UW as of Wednesday, giving Granato a chance to discuss publicly the process of bringing in the Duluth East center.
Donovan, ranked 46th among skaters in North American leagues for the 2019 draft by NHL Central Scouting, made a non-binding oral commitment to North Dakota in 2017 but changed his mind and decommitted last fall.
“Our job is to add the best players that come available to us,” Granato said. “That’s what our fans want. That’s what our university wants. That’s what we need as a program. We have to add elite players. And when one like that comes available, you find a way to make it work.”
Donovan joined forwards Alex Turcotte (fifth in the midterm rankings), Cole Caufield (15th), Owen Lindmark (65th) and Dylan Holloway (projected as a first-round pick in 2020) and defenseman Mike Vorlicky in the 2019-20 incoming class.
“It’s a big addition as far as his versatility at center and wing, his size, his speed,” Granato said of Donovan, listed by Central Scouting as 6-foot-3 and 184 pounds. “His offensive ability is elite. We were ecstatic when we knew there was some interest that potentially we would be the school, and we found a way to make it work.”
The Duluth East team that Donovan captains plays in the Minnesota Section 7AA semifinals on Saturday. Once his high school season is over, he’ll join Dubuque of the United States Hockey League.
Granato drew a parallel in Donovan’s skill, size and skating with Badgers freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller. The difference between the two — besides position — is that Miller played his final two high school seasons with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, playing top-level competition.
The addition of Donovan to the Badgers’ recruiting picture doesn’t change the forecast for others committed to the team, Granato said. Taking out the six players that have signed for next season, 25 have made an oral commitment, including nine whose age makes them eligible to join the team as early as next fall.
“This is a big piece,” Granato said of Donovan’s addition. “This is a piece that adds an extremely talented player that has a great desire to come play for us. When you’re trying to get better as a program, you get excited and you celebrate his willingness and desire to be here, and you make it work.”
Ahcan moved down
Badgers freshman Roman Ahcan will play on Friday at No. 19 Penn State, but Granato moved him out of his regular line as a punishment for an unspecified issue.
Ahcan will dress as the extra forward, Granato said. Jason Dhooghe took Ahcan’s place as the left wing on a line with Dominick Mersch and Brock Caufield in Wednesday’s practice.
“Obviously, he’s been a big part of our team and played extremely well for us, but there’s certain things that I have expectations for both on and off the ice that you live up to,” Granato said of Ahcan. “And if you don’t, there’s consequences.”
Ahcan has five goals for the Badgers, the most recent coming in last Friday’s 2-1 victory at Notre Dame.
From the infirmary
Defenseman Tyler Inamoto, who missed last Saturday’s game with a hip injury, returned to practice with the team on Wednesday and is expected to play at Penn State.
Miller, UW’s leading scorer with 22 points in 26 games, will be out for at least this weekend and likely the March 1-2 home series against Michigan because of the left leg injury he suffered on Feb. 9.