MADISON - Wisconsin men’s hockey saw a pair of underclassmen and a senior with exhausted NCAA eligibility sign professional contracts, according to their respective NHL franchises. Junior defenseman Joe Piskula signed a multi-year entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, sophomore forward Jack Skille and senior forward Jake Dowell signed Amateur Tryout contracts with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, the team announced on Wednesday. Both are expected to be in attendance next fall at Chicago Blackhawks camp.
Piskula, 22, played in 38 games this season, posting a goal and five points to go along with 34 penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating. In three seasons at Wisconsin, the undrafted free agent skated in 112 games, chipping in three goals and 22 points. He also accumulated 80 penalty minutes and was the team’s current career leader with a plus-36 rating.
An Antigo, Wis., native, Piskula was voted as the Badgers’ Otto Breitenbach Most Improved Player by his teammates in 2005-06. Prior to his time at Wisconsin, Piskula sakted for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. The swift-skating blue liner was also a finalist for Wisconsin’s “Mr. Hockey” while skating for Antigo High School.
Skille, 19, skated in 26 games this past season, tallying eight goals and 18 points. The sophomore tallied one power-play goal, short-handed goal and game-winning goal to go along with 12 penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating for the Badgers. In two seasons and 67 career games at Wisconsin, Skille collected 21 goals and 39 points, to go along with 49 penalty minutes, a plus-12 rating, four power-play goals and three game-winning scores.
Skille, who was drafted seventh overall in the first round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, will most likely be remembered for his game-winning goal in triple overtime against Cornell as the Badgers advanced to the 2006 NCAAFrozen Four. Another highlight of Skille’s UW career occurred in front of sold-out crowd at the Kohl Center on Jan. 27. Skille scored three goals for a hat trick in a Badger victory against Minnesota State.
A product of the U.S. National Team Development Program and Madison, Wis., native, Skille twice played for Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship while at Wisconsin, winning a bronze this past winter to go along with a fourth place finish in 2006.
Dowell, 22, led the Badgers with 19 goals and ranked second on the team with 25 points in 41 games played this season. Team leader with eight power-play goals, he finished with a plus-7 rating and 54 penalty minutes to go along with three game-winning tallies and a short-handed score. For his career, the assistant captain posted 42 goals and 90 points in 159 games played. He also added 17 power-play goals and five game-winning goals, a plus-20 rating and 218 penalty minutes.
A fifth-round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004 (140th overall), Dowell, like Skille, competed in a pair of IIHF World Junior Championships while at Wisconsin. He was part of Team USA’s first gold medal in tournament history at the 2004 event, before returning for the 2005 event.
Dowell came to the Badgers from the U.S. National Team Development Program after skating for current UW head coach Mike Eaves in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Eau Claire, Wis., native skated the 2002-03 season as the assistant captain for the Under-18 team.
Dowell and Skille are expected to join former Badger captain Adam Burish and Norfolk for its game on Friday at the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins. It is unclear at this time where Piskula will make his professional debut, though he has already been added to the Kings roster. The Los Angeles Kings skate against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago on Friday.
Dowell, Skille and Piskula join Brian Elliott, who signed with the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. They four are expected to be joined by additional Badger signings in the coming days.
With the early departures of Skille and Piskula, the Badgers return 10 forwards, four forwards and three goaltenders for the 2007-08 season.