Wisconsin’s goaltending situation for next season has taken a serious blow with news that incoming freshman Luke Opilka has decided not to join the team.
Opilka, a fifth-round selection of his hometown St. Louis Blues in last week’s NHL draft, is expected to join the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers instead of playing for the Badgers.
He had been in summer classes at Wisconsin since June 15.
“Luke had an opportunity to turn pro and pursue his dream and decided that the window of opportunity was now,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said in a statement. “We want to wish him luck in pursuit of his dreams.”
Opilka, a product of the U.S. Under-18 Team, was expected to be the favorite to take over the No. 1 goaltending spot at Wisconsin, which graduated goaltenders Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson after last season.
In 2014-15, Wisconsin posted its worst record (4-26-5) since the school restarted the program in 1963. Badgers coach Mike Eaves fired both of the team’s assistant coaches, Gary Shuchuk and Matt Walsh, in April.