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Kyle Turris, above, is one of 11 players that have left early for the NHL draft during Mike Eaves' coaching tenure at UW.



Based on how the current system has been working from a positive and negative standpoint, how would a college hockey coach get his "arms around'' the NHL draft?

Cautiously? Or not at all?

If you've had multiple players with college eligibility remaining sign pro contracts, it's not likely you would embrace the results. That applies to many coaches, including the UW's Mike Eaves.

On Eaves' watch (since 2002), the Badgers have had 11 players leave school early to turn pro. For the sake of fair debate and balance, though, he was requested to list all the positives of the draft.

"The draft is an interesting beast from the fact you're dealing with 18-year-olds,'' Eaves began.

"We, as part of a college institution, part of our issue has been if you get kids who have been drafted really high, they're going to leave early.

"Later drafts tend to stay around. Your mid-drafts depend on how they develop. From a positive standpoint ... that's what you want in this question ... I was buying time by giving you that answer.''

He chuckled. OK, let's start over again. Is there anything positive about the present NHL draft?

"They take the top kids to the combine,'' Eaves said, "and they do a great job, a classy job of educating the kids - of finding out what they're like in terms of their personalities.

"They do extensive psychological testing to find out what kind of person they are. Much like us, in college, you want good people and good players. They do a good job of filtering through the masses.''

The evaluation process drew Eaves' praise. That's about it.

"It's a little bit of a roll of the dice with 18-year-olds,'' he said. "When it used to be a 20-year-old draft, you'd have a couple of more years to see how the kids grow and mature, much like us (colleges).

"Now, we're looking at 15-year-olds, what the heck? Like I said earlier, it's really a roll of the dice. You can see a young man who has good size and ability, but you'd better find more.''

Eaves grinned and confided, "It's much easier to talk about the negatives of the draft.''

Such as?

"I don't like the fact there are only seven rounds now,'' he said. "By going from 10 rounds to seven, they've increased the pressure on your free agents; kids who don't get drafted and go to college.

"So we lose kids too early if they're talented and now we're losing kids too early because they're free agents and they (NHL teams) are pulling them out of college before someone else gets them.''

Eaves has been among a handful of college head coaches who have been granted audiences in front of NHL general managers. It has happened in each of the past two years.

Most recently it took place on June 6 in Boston, the site of game 4 between the Bruins and Canucks. The catalyst for these meetings has been Paul Kelly, the head of College Hockey, Inc.

Kelly is a former executive director of the NHL Players Association. "He's done a tremendous job of representing us with all facets of hockey especially with the pro GMs,'' Eaves said.

Why should the college coaches have a voice? Eaves noted that one-third of the players in the NHL are from colleges, one-third from major junior leagues and one-third from Europe.

"We went to them (the GMs) with some things we thought would help,'' Eaves said. "One of them was adding a couple of rounds to draft to see if we can cut back on the frenzy over free agents.''

Another topic has revolved around changing the draft age from 18 to 19.

"Those things have to be negotiated with the Players Association,'' Eaves said. "And their No. 1 concern is keeping jobs for players, not losing jobs. That's going to be a tough sell.''

The present collective bargaining agreement will expire on Sept. 15, 2012.

In the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Badgers had four players taken, including two in the fourth round: Joseph LaBate (Vancouver) and sophomore Michael Mersch (Los Angeles).

Patrick Daly (New Jersey) and Brad Navin (Buffalo) each went in the seventh round.

"There's a pretty good chance these young men are going to be here three or four years,'' Eaves said of the group as a whole. "For us, that's a positive.''

What about the elite players who stick around for only one season? What happens when you lose a Kyle Turris after his freshman year?

"That's a huge hole in your program,'' Eaves said.

But there's no question that Eaves will continue to recruit special players like Turris.

"If it's the right young man out there who's talented and the right kid, you need that talent if you're going to win,'' he said. "You just can't have a basketful of them.''

Gilreath runs away with fan vote

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After a week of voting, Badgers fans have spoken with their pick for the top play of the 2010-11 season. In reality, the contest was probably over before it started.

The play that got the football Badgers' thrilling 31-18 win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State "underway with ... a ... bang" ran away with nearly half the votes.

David Gilreath's 97-yard return for touchdown on the game's opening kickoff claimed 48.7 percent of the vote to take the title in the UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year poll.

Runner-up honors -- with 27.2 percent of the fan vote -- went to women's hockey's Kelly Nash, who tallied the game-winner in overtime to secure the WCHA Final Face-off crown over Minnesota.

Josh Gasser's buzzer-beating 3-pointer garnered 9.5 percent of the vote to finish third, and Landon Peacock's last-gasp pass for the Big Ten cross country title was fourth with 5.3 percent. Justin Schultz's overtime game-winner for the Badger men rounded out the top five with 4.3 percent.

Here's a look at the complete poll results:
48.7%  David Gilreath - Football - Opening kickoff return for TD vs. Ohio State (Oct. 16)
27.2%  Kelly Nash - Women's Hockey- OT game-winner in WCHA Final Face-Off (March 5)
9.5%   Josh Gasser - Men's Basketball - Buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Michigan (Feb. 23)
5.3%   Landon Peacock - Men's Cross Country - Late pass to win Big Ten title (Oct. 31)
4.3%   Justin Schultz - Men's Hockey - OT game-winning goal vs. Canisius (Jan. 8)
3.5%   Brad Nortman - Football - Fake punt to keep drive alive vs. Iowa (Oct. 23)
1.4%   Lin Zastrow - Women's Basketball - Game-tying tip-in at buzzer vs. Wyoming (Dec. 15)

And, in case you want to see it again, the top play in UW sports for 2010-11:


Play of the Year Nominee: Justin Schultz

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

As UW Athletics continues its retrospective on the 2010-11 season, we debut a week-long look back on some of the season's top plays from across the Badgers' lineup of 23 sports.

Narrowing the list to just seven nominees was difficult, but now comes the fun part. We're asking fans to make their selections for the 2010-11 Wisconsin Athletics Play of the Year.

Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner next Wednesday, June 29.

We'll feature a nominee each day for the next week, highlighting one of the nominees on the front page of UWBadgers.com.

The process begins with an outstanding offensive play from a defenseman who proved he has no problems finding the back of the net from the blue line:

Justin Schultz - Men's Hockey
OT game-winning goal vs. Canisius (Jan. 8)

In the Badgers' final non-conference game of the season, visiting Canisius put up three goals in the third period to tie the score at 5-5 and force overtime at the Kohl Center. With just 8 seconds remaining in the extra session, Justin Schultz -- the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year -- took a pass from Jake Gardiner and tucked the puck in on the back side of the net for the game-winning tally. Schultz finished the year as the nation's top-scoring defenseman, but few of his tallies were as dramatic as this one:


2010-11 Athlete of the Year: The contenders

Each year, Wisconsin Athletics submits its top men's and women's athletes for the prestigious Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year awards, presented annually by the Big Ten Conference.

The Badgers' nominees are considered to be the UW Male Athlete of the Year and UW Female Athlete of the Year award winners.

With UW teams experiencing success across the board during the 2010-11 season, it's as difficult a job as ever to narrow the field to just one deserving student-athlete on both the men's and women's sides of competition.

The winner of UW's awards will be announced Friday, but you can read profiles on each of the nominees who were not selected today. Then, make your own decision and vote in our polls on Facebook to determine the fans' choice for the Badgers' top athletes in 2010-11.

(Yes, it's pretty easy to figure out who will be announced as winners Friday...)



Men's Candidates

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Gabe Carimi (Football)
The 29th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, Gabe Carimi started 49 games throughout his Badger career. A 2010 consensus first-team All-American, Carimi became the second Badger to win the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's top interior lineman. He is just the eighth Badger to earn unanimous, consensus first-team All-America honors.

Last season Carimi was a key cog in an offense that led the Big Ten and averaged a school-record 41.5 points per game (fifth in the country), including 45.2 points per game in Big Ten play, second-best in conference history. UW also led the Big Ten and ranked 12th in the country in rushing offense, nearly becoming the first FBS team in history to have three running backs go over 1,000 yards in the same season.

At left tackle, Carimi lined up against some of the best defensive linemen in the country, including All-Americans Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Cameron Heyward of Ohio State and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa. He was just the third player in Badger history to earn Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.

Earlier this month, Carimi was named Wisconsin's male Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient. He graduated in May with 3.13 grade-point average in civil and environmental engineering and was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

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Landon Peacock (Cross Country)
Landon Peacock capped off his senior season for the Badgers in style with a come-from-behind performance that gave him the win in a dramatic men's race at the 2010 Big Ten Cross Country Championship.

The Morley, Mich., native claimed his first individual Big Ten title by a half-second, out-leaning Indiana's Andrew Bayer at the finish line for the win. Peacock clocked in at 23 minutes, 40.8 seconds, while Bayer was second in 23:41.3.

The victory made Peacock UW's 27th individual conference champion and led the way for the Badgers to secure their 12th-consecutive team crown in the first-ever Big Ten championship held at their own Zimmer Championship Course.

Sitting fifth heading into the course's finishing chute, Peacock charged past teammate Mohammed Ahmed and Minnesota's Ben Blankenship and trailed only Bayer with 30 meters to go. He finally hunted the Hoosier down at the line to become UW's first individual titlist since Matt Withrow in 2007.

He went on to earn first-team all-region honors with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional -- as UW won its eighth-straight team title -- and then scored All-America laurels for the second time in his career with a 20th-place showing at the 2010 NCAA Championship.

In track, Peacock was unable to defend his 2010 Big Ten title in the 5,000 meters as an injury sidelined him for the duration of the indoor season. However, he came back outdoors to finish fifth at the Big Ten meet in the 5,000 and then posted a personal-best time of 13:42.90 in the event at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round. 

Despite the outstanding time, which would have won the other preliminary-round heat in Eugene, Ore., as well as both sections of the event at the NCAA East Preliminary Round site, Peacock did not advance to the NCAA championships due to regional qualifying procedures.

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Anchoring the blue line for the Badgers in the 2010-11 season, Justin Schultz completed his sophomore campaign as the nation's top-scoring defenseman with 18 goals and 47 points.  His 18 goals were the most by a blueliner in the nation since 2002-03 and was just one shy of the UW single-season record for a defenseman.

Schultz had a remarkable sophomore season and did not go more than two games without a point. He scored the opening goal of a game five times and led the Badgers with 14 multi-point games.

The All-American was also named Defenseman of the Year by Inside College Hockey,  WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-WCHA,  was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and earned a spot on College Hockey News' national first team.

On Nov. 27 against Michigan State, Schultz became the sixth Badger defenseman in program history -- and the first since 1991-92 -- to record a hat trick. He was also the sixth Wisconsin defenseman to lead the team in points. 

Schultz was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week after scoring the overtime game-winner in a 6-5 victory over Canisius on Jan. 8, snapping UW's 26-game overtime winless drought.  He tallied three assists against Alabama Huntsville on Oct. 17 and had a total of three multi-goal games on the year. 

In part to Schultz's efforts, Wisconsin ranked No. 8 nationally in goals-against average at 2.39. The Badgers also had the nation's top-scoring defensive corps, with a combined 120 points from the blue line. 

Women's Candidates

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Dorcas Akinniyi (Track & Field)
Dorcas Akinniyi continues to haul in hardware every time she heads to a championship meet. The Carrollton, Texas, native added to her collection in 2011 with All-America honors both indoors and outdoors.

Akinniyi has qualified for the NCAA championships in all five seasons -- indoor and outdoor combined -- in which she's been eligible. After this season, she has also collected an All-America award four times. 

She posted her best-ever NCAA finish with an outstanding fourth-place showing in the pentathlon at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships, racking up a school-record total of 4,254 points to earn her first All-America laurel of the year. 

That performance came on the heels of her second-consecutive conference title in the pentathlon at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, where she scored 3,929 points.

Moving outdoors, Akinniyi earned a berth directly to the NCAA championships by virtue of her heptathlon score of 5,352 points at the Mt. SAC Relays Multi-Events in April. She also qualified for the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round in the open high jump for the second-straight season.

At the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Akinniyi piled up 5,554 points -- just 30 markers shy of her lifetime-best score -- to finish sixth in the heptathlon and secure the fourth All-America honor of her career. A career-best 3,469 points on the opening day of the two-day, seven-event competition propelled Akinniyi to another top-eight finish.

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Hilary Knight (Hockey)
After taking a year off to compete with the U.S. Olympic Team in the 2010 Winter Games, Hilary Knight returned to Wisconsin for her junior season, leading the nation with 47 goals and helping the Badgers to their fourth NCAA championship.

Third in the nation in points with 81 on the season, the alternate captain now sits in third place on the UW all-time career-scoring list with 202 points.

Knight tallied a career-best 20-game point streak that spanned from Dec. 10 to Feb. 26, tying for the second-longest steak in UW history. In 41 games, she recorded 25 multi-point games, including three five-point efforts and four hat tricks. With her 47 goals, Knight scored more goals than four NCAA Division I teams did all year.

Knight was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week twice, once after tallying five points against RPI on Oct. 2 and lastly on Jan. 5 after having back-to-back four-point games against Northeastern and Mercyhurst  at the Easton Holiday Showcase.

Scoring just 47 seconds into the Fill the Bowl contest at the Kohl Center, Knight tallied the first of three goals as the Badgers downed Minnesota, 3-1, in front of 10,668 fans on Jan. 29. Her game-winning goal against Bemidji State on Feb. 4 marked her 100th career tally.

She led UW with two points, including the game-tying goal and an assist on the game-winner, against Minnesota Duluth in an NCAA regional game on March 12. She went on to record three assists at the Frozen Four, including two in a 3-2 win over Boston College on March 18 in the national semifinal game. 

On the national stage, Knight represented the United States as a member of the Women's Under-22 Select Team at the 2010 USA Hockey Women's National Festival and a three-game series against Canada.

Knight tallied three points for the U.S. Women's Select Team in the 2010 Women's Four Nations Cup in St. John's, Canada, where Team USA placed second.

After winning the national title with Wisconsin, Knight scored the game-winner in overtime against Canada as the U.S. Women's National Team claimed gold in April's 2011 IIHF World Women's Championship in Zurich and Winterthur, Switzerland.

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Maggie Meyer (Swimming)
Maggie Meyer capped off a brilliant career at Wisconsin by becoming the first national champion in program history when she won the 200-yard backstroke at the 2011 NCAA Championships in March. Meyer finished the NCAAs as a six-time All-American and was an 11-time All-American for her career. 

With seven honorable mention All-America honors in career as well, Meyer tied for the second-most All-America accolades in school history with 18.

The 2011 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, Meyer won five of the six events she entered at the 2011 Big Ten Championships, bumping her career total to 10 conference titles. The White Bear Lake, Minn., native swept the 100 and 200 backstroke events, then recorded relay wins in the 400 free, 200 medley and 400 medley. 

She set four school records as a senior, bringing her career total to six. Meyer also set a Big Ten record in the 200 medley relay.

In addition to setting the school record in the 200 back, Meyer also lowered the mark individually in the 100 back (51.66). In the relays, Meyer was a part of record-setting teams in the 200 medley relay (1:35.71) and 400 medley relay (3:31.73).

Meyer dominated the backstroke events in 2010-11, going undefeated in the 200 backstroke and winning 10 of 11 races in the 100 back. All told, Meyer won 38 out of possible 57 races she entered during the season either as an individual or as a member of a relay unit.

Badger hockey still playing

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We're on the cusp of May and the college hockey season is a memory, but you can still catch Badgers playing hockey on television these days.

There are five alumni left playing in the NHL playoffs and all in the Western Conference. You can catch them live on Versus and NBC over the next couple of weeks.Beginning tonight (Thursday), the Nashville Predators Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion take on Vancouver with hopes of advancing to the conference finals. Nashville just won its first-ever playoff series.

Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley and the San Jose Sharks take on Brian Rafalski and the Detroit Red Wings in the second round beginning Friday. Wisconsin's head coach Mike Eaves will have an added interest in the series as his son Patrick skates for the Red Wings.

Also Friday, the 2011 IIHF World Championships begin in Kosice, Slovakia. The current roster is just shy of one-quarter Badgers, with five of the 23 having skated for Wisconsin. Current Badger forward Craig Smith (Madison, Wis.), is joined by 2011 Second-Team All-American defenseman Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka, Minn.), as well as 2006 NCAA West Regional hero Jack Skille (Madison, Wis.), and New York Ranger teammates Derek Stepan (Hastings, Minn.) and Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn.).

The U.S. will face Austria, Norway and Sweden in preliminary-round play April 30 - May 4 before advancing to either the Qualification or Relegation Round. Team USA's first six games will be aired live on Versus, which will also broadcast both of the tournament's semifinal games on May 13 and the gold-medal tilt on May 15.

Badger alum Jim Johannson serves as USA Hockey's Assistant Executive Director, Hockey Operations and is part of the team's staff.

Three Badgers remain in the AHL playoffs, as the league reaches the second round. Ben Street's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take on the Charlotte Checkers, Kyle Klubertanz' Hamilton Bulldogs face the Manitoba Moose and Robbie Earl's Houston Aeros will battle the Milwaukee Admirals.

The ECHL has reached the conference finals in the Kelly Cup playoffs and one Badger remains. The Victoria Salmon Kings Ryan MacMurchy is the sole survivor.

Badgers start NHL playoffs with a bang

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Two days into the NHL playoffs and the impact of Wisconsin men's hockey alumni is being felt. Big time.

To start, 11 former Badgers are skating in the playoffs, the most of any college team in the nation.

There have been eight games played and 27 goals scored thus far. Badgers account for 14.8 percent of the goals, 20 percent of the first goals and 20 percent of the game-winning goals, including 50 percent of the overtime game-winning goals. Granted there isn't a large sample of yet, but former Badger names can be heard in five of the eight series and on eight of the 16 teams involved in the playoffs.

Badgers having fun in the professional ranks

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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.

Geoffrion is 20th Badger in NHL this season

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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.

Geoffrion made history during his debut, becoming the first fourth-generation player in NHL history. He's also the first player ever drafted out of Tennessee.

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?

Lucas at Large: Kirk Daubenspeck

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Mark Strobel was visiting with some friends at the Kohl Center when he was approached by someone wearing a minor league hockey jersey. It was not any ordinary jersey. It was a South Carolina Stingrays jersey, a Kirk Daubenspeck jersey, a No. 29.

Strobel almost broke down in tears. "He came up to me and said that he had met Dobber a few times,'' related Strobel, a former UW hockey captain and teammate of Daubenspeck's. "He said he didn't make a lot of money but he wanted to donate to the medical fund. I hugged him.''

Strobel then put on the jersey and posed for some pictures. "Maybe this was the start of the healing process for all of us on the journey that we're going on,'' he said softly.

Video: Previewing a Badger Weekend

A look just at some of what's on tap as part of Badger Weekend:

ON WISCONSIN