University of Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Tony Granato knew from the day Virden’s Wyatt Kalynuk stepped on campus that he would eventually wear a letter on his sweater.
Earlier this summer that prediction came true as he announced that the son of Randy and Leanne Kalynuk would captain the 2019-2020 Badgers. What makes the third-year NCAA Division I player a good leader for the Madison, Wisc. school squad?
“He is an energized guy,” said Granato, a former National Hockey League player and coach. “He’s a winner. He’s got a tremendous work ethic. He has got great values as far as he understands the importance of school. He understands the importance of respecting our program and representing it the right way. He’s a natural leader.”
Kalynuk, a defenceman, was pleased to join the ranks of such players as current and former NHLers Granato, Rene Bourque, Ryan McDonagh, Craig Smith, and Justin Schultz who wore the captain’s “C” or the alternate “A” for the Badgers.
“It is a pretty good honour,” Kalynuk said. “I think if you look at some of the captains that have been through this university you see a bunch of pretty big-time guys.”
He was quick to say that it will not just be him leading the way. Tarek Baker and Sean Dhooghe will wear “A”s. Granato said, “We think all three of those guys together will give us as solid leaders as there are in college hockey and ones that we can rely on as the season goes on.”
“There are a bunch of leaders in this room,” Kalynuk said. “We’ve been around. This is my third year now and we have a bunch of juniors … I don’t think I need to do anything crazy out of the blue. I think just be myself.”
He is coming off a stellar sophomore season where he excelled on the ice and in the classroom. Kalynuk was chosen as the team’s Spike Carlson/Chris Chelios Most Valuable Player. The former Virden Oil Capital was named Second Team All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten.
Last winter, for the second straight season, Kalynuk posted 25 points in 37 games. After scoring three goals as a freshman, he lit the lamp nine times to rank second on the team. The smooth skating blue liner is important to the Badgers defensively and had 59 blocks, which placed him fourth on the team.
There had been talk that Kalynuk might head to the pro ranks to join the Philadelphia Flyers organization. The team tabbed him in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. What drew him back to the Badgers?
“The opportunity we have this year,” Kalynuk said. “I think we have a really, really good team. Our team has a lot of potential.
“Just the way we are treated here. The stuff we get. We fly everywhere. It is top notch. I think it’d be hard to walk away from this place early.”
Watching closely next season - as always - will be his parents and grandmother, Betty McSorley. Kalynuk said their support is huge.
“They don’t miss a game even though they are so far away,” he said. “They make it down to a ton of games and they stream every single game. They haven’t missed a single game since I came down here.”