Saturday, May 17, 2008

17 Forwards?

W/ the recent news of Chris Hickey joining the 2008 recruiting class, the number of forwards on Wisconsin's roster for next season now sits at 17. Last season we had 14 or 15 depending upon Josh Engel's role on the team.

Last month, after the initial 2008 recruiting class was announced I talked about what I thought the lines would be for next season. Since I enjoy prognostication, I thought I would take another look at things, from a slightly different view point.

Looking at the UW roster, I feel the following players are locks to play every night and will only sit due to injury or disciplinary action:

Ben Street (C)
Blake Geoffrion (C)
Michael Davies
Patrick Johnson
John Mitchell
Sean Dolan
Ben Grotting
Aaron Bendickson

Some might argue that Dolan or Grotting, or even Johnson or Bendickson could spend some time on the bench. Those four were some of the most consistent players on the team last season, and I don't think its a stretch that the Mitchell/Dolan/Grotting line was the best line game in and game out.

Out of the freshman, I think Eaves and company will have a very hard time keeping Derek Stepan, Jordy Murray and Matt Thurber in street clothes for more than a handful of games this season. As a trio they should provide some much needed scoring and playmaking to Wisconsin next season.

So that leaves one spot open and a few starts here and there when one of the above sits. That doesn't leave a lot of playing time for the following guys:

Podge Turnbull
Andy Bohmbach
Zach Bearson
Tom Gorowsky
Chris Hickey
Tom Bardis

Looking at this group of players, being a senior I'm hoping Tom Gorowsky will see a lot of ice time, and I know that would make the matriarch of this blog very happy as well. Podge Turnbull didn't sit much last season and the "Bomber" Andy Bomhbach was playing quite well toward the end of the season. Zach Bearson only saw the ice once last season. Chris Hickey should battle for ice time since he can provide both a grinder in the corner and some scoring touch. Lastly, Tom Bardis, I don't really know much about Tom. He transferred from St. Lawrence last season, practiced w/ the Dmen most of the year, but will be a forward for the Badgers. I would like to know more about him, hopefully Todd at TCT or someone else will have a write up about him at some point.

I've seen comments in various places that this additional depth will be good for the World Juniors, but how many forwards could we actually lose to the WJC team? Blake Geoffrion is now too old to play on that team, and I don't see any other returning Badger forwards making the team. It certainly is a possibility that freshman Derek Stepan and/or Jordy Murray could make the team, but I don't think either are locks, not like Ryan McDonagh is on defense. If he doesn't make the US WJC team that would be a crime, of sorts.

I have also ran across posts in message boards from a fan or two who think Eaves should go w/ all returning players to start the season and sit the freshman. I think that is ridiculous. Though we didn't lose too much in the scoring department, Turris being the only major lose on offense, the freshman coming in (maybe not Hickey as much as Stepan, Murray and Thurber) all have pedigrees as scorers and/or playmakers. No doubt that Wisconsin has been off to some slow starts the last 2 seasons, and both seasons had to integrate a large number of freshman into the team, but I think one of the main things missed out of last year's team especially was upperclassmen leadership. W/ only 4 seniors and 3 juniors last year, there weren't enough people showing the way, this year's junior class should go a long way to mitigating that problem. Also, it didn't take long for Kyle Turris, Patrick Johnson and Sean Dolan to adjust last season and I think our freshman won't have much problem this season either.

There is a lot to happen in the coming months and it will be interesting to see who makes leaps and bounds in their game by next Fall.