After thoroughly enjoying three successful seasons with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, Virden’s Wyatt Kalynuk is moving on.
As of Monday, the son of Leanne and Randy Kalynuk has reportedly not formally made known his intentions to turn pro. However, when announcing the Badgers’ 2020-2021 captains, head coach and former National Hockey League player Tony Granato said Kalynuk was departing the program to do so. The smooth-skating defenceman could sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, who picked him in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Entry draft. If he and the team cannot agree to a deal in a 30-day period Kalynuk would become a free agent. No matter with which organization or where Kalynuk begins his professional career, there is no doubt he made many memories in Wisconsin.
“I think what I’ve enjoyed most about college hockey is the college life here in Madison,” he said. “The campus is like no other and the hockey tradition here is second to none. The atmosphere at home games is some of the best in college hockey and it doesn’t get old playing in front of 15,000 people.
“Playing here at Wisconsin has made me a better player in all areas, but coach (Mark) Osiecki has really developed my defensive game specifically. Offence has always come to me but the defensive side hasn’t and I think he helped me grow in that area a lot.”
The accolades Kalynuk has received over the years help demonstrate the development of his game with the Badgers. As a freshman, he was named All-Big Ten Conference honourable mention in 2018 before being a second-team selection in 2019. This past winter Kalynuk earned All-Big Ten first-team honours while captaining the Badgers. The 6-foot-1, 189-pound, 23-year-old scored seven goals and recorded a career-high 28 points in 36 games.
“Wyatt is a pro at everything he does - hockey, training, choices socially and academically,” Badgers associate head coach Mark Osiecki said. “He’s very easy to coach and wants to get better on a daily basis. This all leads in to his leadership. He leads by example and speaks the truth.”
Kalynuk said wearing a letter for the Badgers was a great honour. A long list of illustrious alumni has worn a “C” or “A” in Madison before heading to the NHL. These include Granato, Rene Bourque, Ryan McDonagh, and Craig Smith.
“When you look at some of the past captains of this program, it’s pretty cool to be able to be mentioned in the same category,” Kalynuk said.
One of the highlights of his final season in Madison was sweeping Arizona State University on Alumni Weekend.
“The building was packed full and it was cool to meet over 100 ex-Badger hockey players,” Kalynuk said.
LEGACY OF SUCCESS
He succeeded more than just on the ice in Madison. The communication arts major was named to the U-Wisconsin Student-Athlete Honor Roll and the Academic All-Big Ten Team this spring. Kalynuk also was one of the winners of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Growing up, Kalynuk developed his game in his hometown, including countless hours on the outdoor rink at the Virden Junior High School, where his father taught for many years. As a 16-year-old, he suited up for his hometown Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
“I remember the support from our whole town of Virden and being able to play in front of my family and friends,” Kalynuk said. “I think that year was a big jump for me playing against much older players, but I learned that I needed to get much stronger if I wanted to have success at the next level.”
After earning MJHL All-Rookie Team honours with the Oil Caps, Kalynuk headed south. In the United States Hockey League, he played a season for the Lincoln (Neb.) Stars and two for Bloomington (Ill.) Thunder. Kalynuk then headed to Madison.
To get to the level Kalynuk has achieved takes talent, hard work, and, in almost every case, family support. Kalynuk certainly has that. Osiecki said, “His parents should be very proud - they did an awesome job raising him and being there as an example.”
“My family has been there for me every step of the way,” Kalynuk said. “My mom, dad and grandma made it down to almost all of my home games this year which meant a lot to me. I think most importantly my grandma Betty (McSorley) was able to make it to a ton of my games this year, as I know how much she loves to watch, and it was awesome to have her here so much.”