Gino Cavallini played nine seasons in the NHL, so he has an idea of what constitutes a quality prospect. It didn't take him long to see that Jake Linhart, a 15year-old defenseman who committed to the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team, has the right ingredients.
"He's a special player, no question," Cavallini said. "Guys like Jake make guys like me look good."
Cavallini is in his first season as coach of the Chicago Mission's under-16 team, which includes Linhart, a 5-foot-10, 159-pounder from Brookfield whose skating, poise and decision-making with the puck are his primary assets.
Linhart, whose father Barry played golf at UW, committed to the Badgers for 2014-15 after making an unofficial campus visit last week. He said the choice wasn't difficult even though other elite programs such as Boston University and New Hampshire made overtures.
"I knew I wanted to go there a long time ago," said Linhart, a sophomore at Brookfield East High School who's a strong candidate to be chosen for the U.S. National Team Development Program for 2012-13.
"There's no better program," Barry Linhart said of UW. "There are 1,000 positives for us."
NCAA rules prohibit UW coach Mike Eaves from publicly commenting on recruits until after they sign a National Letter of Intent.
Linhart's Mission team includes two other high-profile state players. Forward Nick Schmaltz from Verona committed to North Dakota, while forward Anderson Bjork from Mequon is from a family with strong ties to Notre Dame.
Another Mission forward, Seamus Malone from Naperville, Ill., is known to have interest in UW.
Cavallini said Linhart emerged as one of the top 10 defensemen in the nation for his age group after playing in the USA Hockey Select 14 and 15 festivals the past two summers.
"I'm pretty excited to have him," Cavallini said.