On his first day of summer classes last Monday, University of Wisconsin incoming freshman Ryder Donovan described himself as like a kid in a candy store.
The next step of his hockey career was beginning with an introduction to college life and the start of workouts with the Badgers.
If that had him pumped up, imagine how Saturday’s news landed with the 18-year-old forward.
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Donovan was the first player connected to the Badgers selected on the second day of the 2019 NHL draft. He was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights in the fourth round, No. 110 overall.
"It sounds cheesy," he said Saturday night, "but it's a thing you dream of growing up."
Incoming center Owen Lindmark joined him among the drafted Badgers players in the fifth round when the Florida Panthers chose him at No. 137 overall.
With the first-round selections of center Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield on Friday, the Badgers left Vancouver, British Columbia, with four names added to a list of drafted players on the active roster that numbers 12.
“You see the families and you see the players realize, holy cow, I got to this point,” said Badgers coach Tony Granato, who was in Vancouver with Turcotte, Caufield and Lindmark. “And they become emotional because they think about the moms and dads and people that have helped them get to where they’re at. I saw a lot of that.”
Incoming Badgers center Alex Turcotte was selected by Los Angeles with the fifth pick on Friday, and Cole Caufield went 15th to Montreal.
Donovan’s selection crossed off one of two remaining NHL teams that had never before chosen a Badgers player in the draft since 1970. Now, only the Tampa Bay Lightning have not drafted someone connected to the school.
The right-handed center scored 17 times with 30 assists in 29 games as a senior at Duluth East. He committed in February after originally making a nonbinding pledge to North Dakota.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 186 pounds, Donovan is a fast skater who’ll be tasked at making the jump from high school to college in 2018-19.
He’s part of a freshman class that includes forwards Turcotte, Caufield, Lindmark and projected 2020 first-round left wing Dylan Holloway, and defensemen Mike Vorlicky and Shay Donovan, Ryder’s older brother.
“There’s obviously a lot of expectations,” Ryder Donovan said about the freshman class on Monday. “I think it’s really exciting. A lot of young talent. I think it’s going to be fun for the fans to see all the young talent. I’m ready. I’m really excited to finally be in college and to be around this atmosphere.”
Donovan learned he was drafted by watching the TV broadcast while wearing recovery boots in the Badgers' locker room. Poor phone reception caused him to miss the initial call from the Golden Knights, but he eventually made a connection.
Badgers incoming freshmen Ryder Donovan, Owen Lindmark and Mike Vorlicky and 2020 recruit Sam Stange are potential second-day selections at the NHL draft Saturday.
"I think it's a really good fit," Donovan said. "It's a long way to get there and a lot of work, but I think it's a pretty exciting thing in the future."
Lindmark said he hadn’t talked to the Panthers at all through the scouting process, so he was initially surprised they selected him.
A right-handed center, he was 93rd in the final Central Scouting rankings after checking in at 65th in the middle of the season.
“It’s a surreal experience, for sure,” Lindmark said in a phone interview from Vancouver. “It’s something that you dream about as a little kid. Finally seeing it come true today, it’s truly unbelievable. I’m forever grateful.”
He was behind No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes and fellow incoming Badgers freshman Turcotte on the depth chart at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, and Granato hopes he’ll flourish as a freshman like defenseman Ty Emberson did last season.
Lindmark’s offensive production dipped last season to 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 56 games for the Under-18 Team.
He was the 14th player from the NTDP selected in this year’s draft.
Vorlicky also was ranked as a potential second-day selection, as was 2020 recruit Sam Stange, a forward from Eau Claire. Neither was picked.
The four selections of Badgers players tied for the most since 2011, when five were chosen.
Former Madison Edgewood forward Jake Schmaltz of McFarland was picked in the seventh round by Boston at No. 192. He’s committed to North Dakota, where cousins Jordan and Nick Schmaltz played.