Now that the 2010-11 Badgers have completed their season,
it's time to check in with the 2009-10 Badgers who either graduated or left
Wisconsin for the professional ranks. The group moved on and has so far
performed admirably at the next level.
2009-10 Hobey Baker Memorial Award top-10 finalist and All-American defenseman
Brendan Smith was named an AHL All-Rookie Team pick. Smith skates for the Grand
Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings top affiliate.
A pair of Badgers - Andy Bohmbach and Ben Street - earned similar
accolades at the ECHL level. Toledo's Andy Bohmbach, who was just returned to
the ECHL from the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL, was named to the all-rookie
squad as the league's top rookie scorer with 68 points. He was also a member of
the all-star team that played in the all-star game mid-winter.
Street, despite playing the last two months for the AHL's
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for former UW assistant coach John Hynes, made
the ECHL rookie team.
Former Badger and former ECHL skater Aaron Bendickson was
named an all-star at midseason, but decided to return to school and passed on
the game and the second half of the season.
While the aforementioned Badgers, as well as a handful of others
play in the minors, three Badgers from last year's team are making
contributions as their respective squads make playoff pushes.
The 2010 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, Wisconsin's first, continues making history. Brentwood, Tenn., native Blake Geoffrion made his NHL debut this afternoon to become the 20th former Badger to play in an NHL game this season.
He's the fourth former Badger to make his NHL debut this season (Brian Fahey, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan are the others).
He becomes the 69th former Badger to skate in the NHL all-time.
Interestingly, Geoffrion makes his debut against the Dallas Stars and former Badger Adam Burish. The Madison, Wis., native Burish captained the Badgers to their 2006 NCAA championship, while Geoffrion was a captain for UW's run to the 2010 NCAA championship game. Do you think Burish might have brought up on the ice that fact that he's got an NCAA title ring and Geoffrion just fell short?
It has been an eventful offseason for the
Wisconsin men's hockey team and its dealings with the National Hockey League.
There have been free agent signings, graduate signings and early departures to
the league. There have also been prospect camps, and a short list of former
Badgers are still waiting to find out where they'll end up for the coming year.
If you are keeping score, two former Badgers changed NHL
franchises, five signed their first NHL deals, three pros from last season are
unrestricted free agents, three others signed with the same team as last
season, one is a restricted free agent and 13 former and current Badgers
attended or are attending NHL prospect camps.
The most impactful to Badger fans as it relates to the
2010-11 Badgers are the four underclassmen who have signed NHL contracts. To recap, the New York Rangers inked Derek Stepan and Ryan
McDonagh, while the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Cody Goloubef and the Detroit
Red Wings brought Brendan Smith into the fold.
After that, five players who will be on the Kohl Center ice
for next year took part in NHL prospect camps. Blue liners Jake Gardiner and
Justin Schultz spent time at the Anaheim Ducks camp. In addition, returning
forward Craig Smith joined former Badger Blake Geoffrion at the Nashville
Predators camp, while Podge Turnbull skated with the Los Angeles Kings.
Finally, incoming Badger forward Jason Clark took part in the New York
Islanders prospect camp.
In addition to those six players, seven additional former
Badgers skated in camps, including McDonagh, Stepan, Goloubef and Brendan
Smith, as well as Andy Bohmbach and John Mitchell, who skated in Chicago, and
Kyle Klubertanz, who took part in the Montreal Canadiens camp.
All of these players hope to one day make it to the world's
best hockey league and add to the Badgers in the NHL legacy.
Some of those already in the NHL look to continue to add to
that legacy. San Jose's Joe Pavelski, St. Louis' Brad Winchester and
Minnesota's Robbie Earl are three who resigned with the team they skated with
Stanley Cup champion Adam Burish, who won the Cup this year with the Chicago Blackhawks, has already moved on and signed a deal with
the Dallas Stars. He is not the only Badger to change organizations, however,
as Brian Fahey, who still looks to make his NHL debut, left the Colorado
Avalanche franchise to sign with the Washington Capitals.
Among those looking for a team are unrestricted free agents
Chris Chelios, Andy Wozniewski and Joe Piskula. Chelios (Atlanta) and
Wozniewski (Boston) saw NHL time last season, while Piskula (Los Angeles) has
in the past.
One more former Badger with NHL experience who is searching
for a home is Madison, Wis., native Jack Skille. Skille is a group 2 free
agent, which means if a team other than Chicago signs him to a deal, the
Blackhawks can match the offer. If Chicago doesn't match, they will receive
draft pick compensation should the forward sign for more than just over $1
million a year.
It has been an interesting offseason for the Blackhawks
following their Stanley Cup victory. The organization has been forced to trade
away some of its key parts from the Cup run because of salary cap issues. Those
trades should leave room for someone like Skille or even former Badger
Jake Dowell, to stick with the NHL team in the upcoming season.
That leaves nine other former Badgers not mentioned who
already have previous contracts, so they are working out in preparation for
the upcoming season with little stress. Those include Calgary's Rene Bourque,
Los Angeles' Davis Drewiske, Ottawa's Brian Elliott, Edmonton's Tom Gilbert,
San Jose's Dany Heatley, Detroit's Brian Rafalski, Florida's Steve Reinprecht,
Nashville's Ryan Suter and Carolina's Jamie McBain.
UW has had 65 Badgers skate in the NHL, all time, including
17 during the 2009-10 season.
Richter, perhaps the most widely known, at least to Badger fans, was accompanied by Mike Alstott, the former Purdue fullback and NFLer, as well as current Boston Bruin Andrew Ference, tennis player Chanda Rubin, NASCAR's Leilani Munter and other Olympians and X Games athletes.
Richter, who was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005 and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, backstopped the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup and was the 1996 World Cup of Hockey Most Valuable Player for Team USA's title. A three-time Olympian and NHL all-star, Richter spent 15 seasons in the NHL and has his number retired for the Rangers. All that came after his two years at Wisconsin, where he was named 1986 WCHA Freshman of the Year and All-WCHA second-team honors in 1987.
After his playing career ended, Richter completed his degree at Yale and at one point was rumored to be running for Congress, but he decided against a run. In his second career, he is part of a private equity firm called Environmental Capital Partners that invests in companies with a green tint.
Burish wins Stanley Cup; Geoffrion, Stepan sign NHL
contracts; Ramage invited to World Junior camp; Joudrey wins Calder Cup
Five people with ties to the Wisconsin men's
hockey program - a combination of former and current student-athletes - have been
in the news of late, and there is great reason to be happy for all of them.
First off, Adam Burish and his Chicago Blackhawks teammates
reached the pinnacle of the hockey world when the team won game 6 of the
Stanley Cup finals with an overtime goal in Philadelphia. That victory, on an
overtime winner by Patrick Kane that nobody but Kane actually knew went in the
net, gave Chicago its first Stanley Cup victory in 49 years. Burish now boasts a
somewhat rare double that includes NCAA and Stanley Cup titles. He also brings
another Cup title home to Madison.
Surely the news most directly impacting the 2010-11 Badgers
is the early departure of junior-to-be center Derek Stepan.
Named an assistant captain for next season, Stepan decided to pass on his final
two years of collegiate eligibility and take his game to the next level.
Wisconsin's leading scorer last season was one of three players in the nation
to average better than an assist per game. And in one of those annual end-of-season
quirks in college hockey, was completely absent with regards to individual league
and national honors. The former Badger star opened eyes when he led Team USA in
scoring as captain and led the team to the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship
gold medal. Stepan is a fantastic person with obvious leadership abilities who
will be sorely missed in the Badger locker room. He will be a great addition to
the New York Rangers organization.
Another former Badger signing an NHL contract over the past
couple of weeks is Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Blake Geoffrion. Having
spent the past two weeks in the New York area myself, his signing has been
covered even in the local media there. Among some of the places I've read about
the signing included CNNSI.com.
As the first Tennessee native to ever sign an NHL contract,
Geoffrion would have been breaking ground. It just happens that his hometown
Nashville Predators drafted the All-American and so the hometown boy did good.
It seems strange to bury what a current Badger is up to, but
that is just how this worked out. Sophomore-to-be John Ramage has been invited
by USA Hockey to the 2010 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp this
summer in Lake Placid, N.Y. He will be among 44 players auditioning for a spot
on the U.S. National Junior Team that will take part in the 2011 International
Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2010-Jan. 5, 2011, in
Buffalo, N.Y. Ramage was a part of last year's gold medal-winning American
squad, along with Badgers' Jake Gardiner and Stepan, as well as former UW
assistant coach Mark Osiecki.
The NHL draft runs June 25-26 from Los Angeles and Ramage is
among the players who may be drafted over the two days.
Lastly, in addition to a Badger winning the Stanley Cup,
another Badger won the Calder Cup, which goes to the winning team of the
American Hockey League playoffs. Former UW center Andrew Joudrey, a former
teammate of Stanley Cup champion Burish, helped the Hershey Bears capture their
second consecutive league title. Hershey is the AHL affiliate for the NHL's Washington
The team is four years in the making. You could argue six years in the making with the initial recruitment of Wisconsin's fifth-year senior Ben Street back before the 2005-06 season. Either way, it has been a long road for Wisconsin's trip to the 2010 NCAA Men's Frozen Four.
It is officially the school's 11th trip to the Frozen Four and the Badgers historically are one of the best teams once they get there. Wisconsin is 15-5-0 all-time at the Frozen Four, trailing only Lake Superior State, as college hockey's most successful championship-week participant. That translates to six out of the 10 previous Frozen Four trips during which Wisconsin was the team hoisting the NCAA championship trophy upon the conclusion.
Seven seniors and nine juniors make up the team's core. Tri-captains Blake Geoffrion, Ben Street and Ryan McDonagh, its heart. But it is a team that is at its best when its depth carries the day.
You invariably hear the players talking about how it all started last summer. After Wisconsin missed the 2008-09 tournament by 0.002 points in the Ratings Percentage Index, there were t-shirts made up as a reminder to work that much harder. The margin of error in a six-month season is just that small. One extra squat, a little extra effort running up Bascom Hill could make that difference.
Now Wisconsin (27-10-4) takes on RIT (28-11-1), a school with its own rallying cry. Each team has one, or so it seems. They're representing the "small" schools that are hoping for a little more recognition and are on a magical run. Miami was up two goals with a minute to play in the 2009 NCAA title game, only to see it slip away in overtime. Boston College has been a Frozen Four staple over the last decade.
It's funny, but during the 2006 season, Wisconsin adopted the phrase "relentless" as one of its key principles. They were relentless at all times, never taking an easy shift or easy practice. That year, the team wore red "Livestrong"-like bands with the word "RELENTLESS" carved onto the side. I'm naturally fidgety with my hands and I've been finding myself flipping around one of those bands in the office while I've worked over the past two weeks. I don't even remember where I grabbed it from the first time, but it has been in my hands an awful lot recently.
These Badgers are ready for the opportunity. Will they seize it?
As you can expect, Blake Geoffrion has been a popular media request leading up to this week's games. He has made it well known that he is ready to be done practicing and he is itching to just play the games. Monday's practice seemed particularly physical as the team looked ready to play that very day. Will they keep that edge?
The media requirements for the coaches and student-athletes are vast and more for some than others. Wednesday at Ford Field will involve a four-hour stay at the rink for some of the Badgers to take care of ESPN, Westwood One Radio, Scoreboard and the rest of the Frozen Four media. The coverage is great for a sport that always thirsts for more, but the extraordinary interview schedule will test all four teams.