Wisconsin Loses Defenseman Sawatske; Suter Sets Deadline

Wisconsin is down to seven defensemen for next season — and that’s before first-round NHL draft pick Ryan Suter makes his decision on whether to return to school for his sophomore season.

Junior-to-be Tom Sawatske has told coach Mike Eaves he’s leaving the team, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday.

The paper also reported Suter’s father Bob has said he wants the Nashville Predators, who own Suter’s draft rights, to detail their plans for his son by the end of May.

Suter, who was the seventh overall pick last year, has said he would talk to the Predators about his future before making a decision.

“If he’s coming back to Wisconsin, he’s fine and that’s good and he’ll prepare,” Bob Suter told the paper. “If he’s doing something with Nashville, then he’s got to prepare a little bit different way. We need to know for Ryan’s peace of mind and for Wisconsin’s.”

Sawatske plans to play junior hockey for a season and catch on with another school, he told the paper.

He played in only five of the last 22 games — and 21 of 43 overall — last season for the Badgers. He had three goals and eight points and was plus-8.

“I want to play and I want to be in a situation where I feel like I’m a main contributor on a team,” Sawatske told the paper. “Judging by the way things have gone the last two years, I haven’t been [a front-line player] and I really didn’t see that changing.”

Also, The Capital Times reported Saturday that Wisconsin associate head coach Troy Ward is one of four finalists for the athletic director job at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which plays in the NCHA. Ward played and coached at Eau Claire.

The Badgers already are looking for one assistant coach to permanently replace John Hynes, who left the school in November to take over the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Mark LeRose was hired to fill the spot on an interim basis; his job ended on April 30.