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‘We plan on making a run this year’: Jack Gorniak has high hopes for Wisconsin

The Canadiens prospect is looking for improvement in his sophomore season.

Shanna Martin

At Montreal Canadiens development camp this past week, a prospect who turned some heads will be headed to the University of Wisconsin this fall. For his sophomore season.

In a 2018 draft full of prospects who garnered attention, Jack Gorniak’s freshman season flew under the radar. He had four goals and 11 assists in 36 games but his production did go up at the end of the season. Five of his 15 points came in his final six games, including the playoffs. At development camp, when you saw a player wearing red make a play with speed, you often found yourself writing down the number 81.

“Just getting that experience and getting used to the speed and level of play [made a difference],” Gorniak said. “I think I’ve been developing a lot at Wisconsin and I’m planning on continuing to do that.”

Last year at development camp, Gorniak was coming straight from high school and being at the NHL Draft. This year he says he was a lot more comfortable, and even going into his second year at Wisconsin he will be more settled. Last year he had to learn to balance school with hockey. He has an apartment with three other players this year.

The Badgers have an experienced team. The team has eight returning players who have been drafted by NHL teams, including Gorniak, and can add two 2019 first round picks in Alex Turcotte and Montreal’s Cole Caufield. Last year, the Badgers lost their best-of-three first-round series to Penn State in three games with their final loss coming in overtime.

“We have a lot of good talent coming in,” Gorniak said. “That’s going to add to our program and we plan on making a run this year and developing as a team and pushing forward.”

The team is coached by Tony Granato, a Wisconsin alumnus, who played in 774 NHL games, the 1988 Olympics, and was an NHL coach for 13 seasons. Three of those seasons was as a head coach. His sister is Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato. Gorniak says having a coach with Granato’s experience has been a huge help.

“He’s extremely helpful whenever you need help on the ice with a certain skill or off ice if you have questions, he’s there,” Gorniak said. “He does a lot of video with the players. I think that’s something that helped me a lot this year, just being able to see the plays I was making and what I need to do differently. He’s been great.”

Throughout the Canadiens’ camp, Gorniak made smart plays with the puck and seemed to know what he wanted to do in the offensive zone, and that’s a part of his game that he wants to continue to improve.

“[I want to be] more confident with the puck, just controlling the pocket, controlling the game. I want to make more plays with the puck, continue to hunt the puck, and always be in the play.”

Gorniak, who was a captain for his final two years in high school at West Salem High, says he took a leadership role in his second year at development camp. Even though he’s still one of the younger players in camp, he talked to the first year players and shared his experience last year.

There’s symmetry in that. Gorniak is also going back to Madison, Wisconsin for the second time where a likely scenario means he’ll be able to share his experience there with an incoming freshman who he met in Montreal this week: Cole Caufield.