The Wild took Wisconsin forward Luke Kunin with the 15th overall pick in the NHL draft tonight in Buffalo.
Don Granato said all Wild fans need to know about Kunin is he captained a U.S. Under-18 team that had Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL draft, and Matthew Tkachuk, the No. 6 pick, on it.
“I call him ‘Little J.J. Watt,’” Granato, Kunin’s coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program, said, referring to the Houston Texans workhorse defensive end. “Luke just works. He loves working. He’s as determined as you get.”
“He’s not only got a great shot. A lot of guys have great shots if there’s time,” said Granato, who coached Kunin for two years and now is on Wisconsin’s staff as his brother Tony Granato’s associate coach. “He doesn’t need a lot of time. He’s got a quick, short, compact release.”
Granato made him captain as a “testament to his leadership. He would take charge both vocally and take initiative when our team needed it as a youth 17 players. Unwavered. He’ll speak up to his teammates and call them out. But he’s respected by everybody because his actions speak, game to game.”
Said Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr: "Luke is a versatile two way forward that can play center and wing. He has a tremendous work ethic, great speed, and an NHL shot. He's been a leader everywhere he's played."
Kunin graduated early from high school to play for the Badgers, scoring 19 goals for an eight-win team. He had 32 points in 34 games.
The Chesterfield, Mo., native is known as a goal-scorer. He played for the U.S. Under-18 program in 2014-15, and played youth hockey in the St. Louis area with other 2016 draft picks Tkachuk, Clayton Keller and Logan Brown.
Kunin was ranked 11th among North American skaters by Central Scouting.
About Luke Kunin
Draft status: First round, 15th overall, by the Wild
Position: Center or wing. Shoots right
Height, weight: 6-0, 195
Hometown: Chesterfield, Mo.
Age: 18 (born Dec. 4, 1997)
Team: University of Wisconsin
At Wisconsin: Had 19 goals and 13 assists in 34 games for Badgers, who won only eight games.
High school: Spent his final prep year playing for the U.S. national development program’s under-18 team. Had 27 goals and 42 assists in 61 games. Captained the U.S U18 team to a gold medal at the world championships in 2015. Also won a title at the Four Nations Tournament in 2014 while with the under-17 team. Had 20 goals and 19 assists in 52 game for the U17s in 2013-14.