In Carson Bantle’s first year with the Madison Capitols, he kept his head down and worked despite little reward.
So far this season, the forward is making noise with his production. His coach loves seeing it because of the example it sets for others.
Bantle has scored a goal in each of the Capitols’ first four United States Hockey League regular-season games and enters Friday’s home opener tied for second with seven points.
The Onalaska native spent most of the summer in the Madison area, working out in the weight room at Bob Suter’s Capitol Ice Arena and getting on-ice sessions with NHL defenseman Ryan Suter and other pro and college players.
The results are showing, and pro scouts are taking notice.
“I feel like it’s worth it, but it’s not over yet,” Bantle said. “I still have the whole season ahead of me.”
Capitols coach Garrett Suter holds up Bantle as a model that a blue-collar work ethic can provide the opportunity to succeed.
“He doesn’t complain and he doesn’t whine about anything,” Suter said. “He’s on time. And if he tells you he’s going to do something, he does it. And I think last year he grew a ton.”
It wasn’t an easy growth. Bantle scored only 10 goals with 10 assists in 62 games, at times getting limited minutes on the fourth line.
“But whenever he got a chance, he worked,” Suter said. “He motivated himself the right way, by getting mad but not getting mad and quitting. He gets mad and he pushes harder and he tries harder. He gets on the ice early and he stays after.”
Bantle, a 17-year-old senior at Waunakee High School, has been willing to be mobile in his hockey career. He grew up playing for the Minnesota Blades, a two-hour drive from Onalaska that his dad made with him two or three times a week.
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He also played for the Capitols’ youth program as well as one in Green Bay before making his way to Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota for his first two years of high school.
Near the end of his first USHL season with the Capitols, he made an oral commitment to play college at Michigan Tech.
Bantle started high school at 5-foot-8 but quickly shot up to 6-2 and now is 6-5 and 200 pounds. He said he has learned to use his size to his advantage in shielding the puck from defensemen.
His size helps attract pro attention. Bantle this week was included in the initial NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2020 draft. Scouts see him as a potential fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round pick.
Not bad for someone who wasn’t even picked in the USHL draft.
“It’s awesome to see,” Suter said. “I’m just happy for him because he’s such a good kid and he works his (tail) off. He was overlooked, but I think for him it worked this year because he did go through the struggle.”
The Capitols, who host Des Moines at 7 p.m. Friday, have two other forwards who made the Central Scouting list with C rankings: Penn State recruit Ryan Kirwan and Michigan State commit Kristof Papp.
The team, which is looking for its first playoff spot and first winning season in its sixth year since rejoining the USHL, has started 1-3 with three straight one-goal games.
“I feel like we’re right there in every single game,” Bantle said. “Some of my teammates are still trying to catch up to the speed and the new pace that they’re not used to playing.
“I think confidence plays a big role as well. When everyone starts playing like their normal self, playing with the confidence that they’re able to play with, that’ll be pretty good.”