2015-16 Team: Wisconsin Badgers (#9)
Date of birth: December 4th, 1997
Place of birth: Chesterfield, MO
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 193 lbs
Position: Center (Can also play wing)
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 1st year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking (February): 20
- Craig Button (TSN): 31
Kunin Impressive In Freshman Season
The Wisconsin Badgers were a team in transition. Normally accustomed to finding themselves at or near the top of the standings, the Badgers spent the season in the Big Ten’s basement, winning just three games in 20 tries. Despite the very disappointing season, one young freshman shined every time he stepped on the ice. Enter Luke Kunin.
Prior to joining the Badgers, Kunin enjoyed success on both the U.S and international stages. He starred on the USNTDP Under-18 team. In the 14-15 season, he scored 27 goals and 41 points. At the 2015 Under-18 World Championships, Kunin was the captain and helped Team USA win gold by scoring six goals in seven games. You could see the potential oozing out of Kunin.
He then joined the Badgers and continued his good play. His 19 goals ranks tied for sixth on the all-time list for freshman at Wisconsin. Of those 19 goals, nine of them came during the first or last-minute of the period, which led the NCAA’s. Even though he was a freshman, Kunin played and thought the game as an upperclassman.
Middle to late 1st. Media is sleeping on him but we LOVE him & so do teams! @MattMess10 @MarkSeidel where do you see luke kunin going?
— North American Central Scouting Independent Bureau (@MarkSeidel) April 22, 2016
The first thing you will notice about Kunin is his dynamic playmaking ability. Whether he unleashes his deadly shot, or makes a great pass, his offensive instincts are easy to see. He’s not afraid to drive the net to create offense. He can also find room in tight spaces. He knows where to position himself. His hockey IQ is off the charts.
What puts him in the first round is his overall two-way play. He is defensively responsible and is not afraid to battle you. He can read plays and be a disruptive force for the opposition. He does all this, while dealing with type-1 diabetes. His maturity and leadership are evident in his game if you consider how much he’s had to overcome with that diagnosis.
#17 Luke Kunin
Crafty little offensive player – gifted goal-scorer thanks to a lethal wrist shot w/above-avg release
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) April 21, 2016
If there’s anything Kunin needs work on, it’s his strength and his skating. He is slightly undersized at 6-foot and about 195 pounds. He’ll fill out and become an even bigger threat. His skating is decent, but could use a better first couple strides. He lacks the explosiveness and separation needed for a potential role as a top-line center. Another year of NCAA will do wonders for his game. I expect massive improvement in this area.
NHL Draft Projection:
We should expect to hear Kunin’s name called out on Friday night somewhere near the end of the first round. He has all the tools to eventually become an NHL staple, especially when you consider his playmaking ability. I think of a team like the St. Louis Blues when it comes to a potential landing spot. The Blues would love a young center for the future. And, he’s from Missouri and played in the St. Louis area. It could happen. But don’t be surprised if he goes before that.
A highly intelligent and offensively gifted forward. Has a keen eye for scoring opportunities and has shown flashes of elite-level finishing capability. Works hard and isn’t afraid to battle for puck possession. Good hands and puck skills, and has a really accurate release on his shot. Needs to work on his explosiveness, staying in motion with the play, and strength behind his shot. All-in-all, a gifted offensive force with the potential to blossom into a highlight reel player.
-Curtis Joe (Elite Prospects)
An honest, clean player with very good speed and strength, Kunin is natural goal scorer, blessed with a laser of a shot and excellent instincts. He was unstoppable at last year’s U18 World Championships, scoring six goals in seven games without the benefit of playing on the top line. He’s been just as prolific as a freshman for the rebuilding Badgers, who entrusted him with top line duties. He’s taken advantage of the NCAA schedule by hitting the weights, and you can tell by the way he’s been plastering collegiate opponents. Kunin is an excellent skater who is always looking for his shot – a process which doesn’t take a lot of time to bear results. Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves has raved about his maturity and leadership, and the fact that Kunin continues to improve while fighting Type 1 Diabetes tells us there’s more to his game than just scoring.
-Steve Kournianos (The Draft Analyst)
- Hockey IQ
- Defensively Responsible
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Skating Mechanics
Kunin has good upside. If he can smooth out some of his mechanics, he can become a top-six forward either at center or on the wing. If he returns for his sophomore season at Wisconsin, that should give him plenty of time to work on those things. He already has a lot going for him, so it’s just a matter of time before he makes an impact at the NHL level.
NHL Player(s) Comparison – Joe Pavelski
Risk = 3/5 Reward = 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 8/10 Defensive = 6/10
- 2014-15 U-18 WJC Gold Medal
- 2015-16 Big Ten All-Rookie Team
Shots From The Slot:
Top prospect Matthew Tkachuk helped Kunin by introducing former NHL’er B.J Crombeen to him to help with his diabetes. Crombeen also has diabetes. Kunin credits Crombeen with helping him learn about the disease and understand the ramifications. Kunin reflects on this moment as why he has matured at such a young age.
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.