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Captain Luke Kunin off to the NHL after two years with Badgers

Sophomore sensation can’t pass up the NHL any longer.

Luke Kunin became used to setting standards at the University of Wisconsin. He’ll now be getting used to being the low man on the totem pole. On Thursday, Kunin announced that he will forgo his eligibility at the collegiate level to sign his rookie deal with the Minnesota Wild.

Kunin was a first-round draft pick of the Wild in the 2016 NHL Draft and will report to the Iowa Wild of the AHL for the remainder of the season.

It is no coincidence that having Kunin wearing the ‘C’ on his chest and UW’s rise back to competency in the Big Ten happened at the same time. However, his first season as the Badgers captain will be his last.

He said goodbye to the University of Wisconsin with a heart-felt letter released on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

This was a move that was easy to see coming. Not only did Kunin lead the Badgers in scoring the past two seasons, he was also the captain of the United State junior team that took home the World Championship earlier this year.

He proved himself on the ice against the best of college hockey, but also against the best the world had to offer at his age group. Outside of sticking around for his degree and a chance at a national title, there wasn’t much left for Kunin to prove at the collegiate level.

Everyone seemed to have been in agreement according to a Wisconsin State Journal report.

“We all thought it was the right decision,” Kunin said in that report. “I feel like I’m ready to make the jump. I’m just excited to get going here with my pro career. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. It’s tough to leave Wisconsin, but I’m looking forward to the future.”

Kunin signed a standard three-year, entry-level deal with the team Wild that starts next season. He’ll immediately report to the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Des Moines and earn $70,000 for his effort for the remainder of this season.

He’s in for a decent pay-day at the NHL level, where he will make the rookie maximum of $925,000 when he goes up to the parent club next season.

Kunin leaves behind a pretty good legacy at UW, one that includes 41 career goals (22 this season alone) and a second-team All-Big Ten pick this past season. He also is just the second player to ever wear the captain’s ‘C’ on his chest as a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin.

It was a good choice by Tony Granato and the team. Wisconsin made a 12-game jump in the win column over last season, nearly made the NCAA tournament as an at-large team and made it to the Big Ten tournament championship game.

After some down years, Kunin’s arrival and early departure are good signals that things are indeed looking up for the proud Wisconsin Badgers hockey program.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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