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Mick Messner

Mick Messner has two goals and five points in his last four games for the Madison Capitols.

The upcoming days will offer a glimpse into the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team's personnel priorities for next season.

The eight-day early signing period for the National Letter of Intent begins Wednesday, and UW could have a handful of players or more lined up to make their commitments official.

Seven Badgers players are in their final season of collegiate eligibility — four forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender. Defenseman/forward Cullen Hurley also is a senior but has played in only three seasons.

By Big Ten rule, UW can't at any point exceed the 18 scholarship limit, so it can offer only the scholarship money that it is certain to have available next season. That could push some decisions until the regular signing period, which starts April 11.

Two recruits from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, defensemen Ty Emberson and K'Andre Miller, are prime candidates to be among those signing with UW this month. They're playing for the U.S. at the Five Nations Tournament in Finland this week, however, so the paperwork might get pushed back a few days.

Madison native and Madison Capitols left wing Mick Messner said he's been told by Badgers coaches that he'll be getting a letter to sign this week. Messner has two goals and five points in his last four games for the Capitols.

Delafield forward Grant Cruikshank, who plays for Penticton in the British Columbia Hockey League, and Sioux City left wing Sampo Ranta also are possibilities.

The arrival of graduate transfer goaltender Kyle Hayton and the departure of junior Matt Jurusik before this season changed the long-term picture at that position. Instead of needing to bring in a new goalie in 2019, UW has to advance the plan one year.

Daniel Lebedeff orally committed to the Badgers in September 2016, and after playing last season with the USHL's Madison Capitols, he's with the Janesville Jets in the North American Hockey League.

When the Hayton-for-Jurusik change took place in the offseason, UW coach Tony Granato said the team would have to readjust the plans for goaltending personnel starting in 2018-19.

Lebedeff is still committed to the Badgers but it's unclear whether his timeline has moved up a year. Coaches aren't allowed to speak publicly about recruits that haven't signed a National Letter of Intent.

Abate decommits

Forward Joey Abate, who gave then-Badgers coach Mike Eaves a verbal commitment in October 2014, decommitted last month.

The Bloomingdale, Illinois, native is looking for another place to play in college, according to a spokesperson for the Omaha Lancers, his USHL team.


Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.