Cole Caufield, a forward who was selected by the Montreal Canadiens with the No. 15 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, will return for his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin in 2020-21.
"This additional year in the NCAA will benefit Cole and will allow him to continue developing his skills within the Badgers' environment," Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said. "Cole is an important part of the Montreal Canadiens' future and we will continue to follow his development with interest."
Caufield could have signed an entry-level contract with the Canadiens. The 19-year-old led Wisconsin with 36 points in 36 games this season, and his 19 goals were tied with Alex Newhook of Boston College for the most among NCAA Division I freshmen. Caufield, who became the first player from Wisconsin to win the Big Ten scoring title with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 24 conference games, is a finalist for Big Ten Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.
"When they're not ready, they're better off staying to give themselves a better chance of when they get there, they can stay there," Wisconsin coach Tony Granato, a former NHL forward, told the Wisconsin State Journal. "Working through the hurdles, working through some of the things that we worked through this year, individually and as a team, are experiences and battles that you have to have to get ready for an NHL season."
Wisconsin (14-20-2) had its season end March 7 after being swept in a three-game series by Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
Two other first-round picks on Wisconsin's roster decided to turn professional earlier this month. Freshman forward Alex Turcotte, who was the No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings on March 11, and sophomore defenseman K'Andre Miller, who was the No. 22 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, agreed to an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers five days later.