Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009 Recruiting Class, they're going to be old

Last week when looking at Craig Smith’s last few games in the USHL, I noticed that he will be 20 years old when the season starts next year. So, my inquisitive mind got the better of me and I decided to look at the age of all Wisconsin’s 2009 class, and upon doing that I figured let’s compare it to the last three freshman classes when they arrived on campus. Minus early departures, this will be our 2009/2010 team.

I would like to note I used October 1st as a general beginning date for each season, to be consistent. I might be off by a month one way or another as well, I dislike adding and subtracting dates.

2009 Class (age given as of Oct 1, 2009)

Keegan Meuer – 20years, 8 months (legally partying at the KK w/ the upperclassmen by January)
Craig Smith – 20 years, 0 months
Tyler Barnes – 19 years, 7 months
Derek Lee – 19 years, 6 months
Aaron Crandall – 19 years, 6 months
Justin Schultz – 19 years, 2 months
John Ramage – 18 years, 7 months

John Ramage is the baby of the group (a term of endearment) and the only 18 year old (as of players committed today for next season). Each of the last three seasons, at least three of the incoming freshmen have been under 19 years old. This season it’s Jake Gardiner, Derek Stepan and Jordy Murray. In 2007, it was Cody Goloubef (who was not even 18), Brendan Smith, Kyle Turris, Patrick Johnson and Ryan McDonagh. Back in 2006, it was Jamie McBain, Blake Geoffrion and Nigel Williams (remember him?).

Anyway, the average age of the 2009 class will be 19 years, 7 months, which will be the oldest in the past 3 seasons. That doesn’t take into consideration Mark Zengerle who will be 20 years, 4 months next October 1st. Based on his age and his BCHL season, Eaves is going to have to make room for this kid. A 21 year old freshman? Wisconsin isn’t Mankato bringing in 24 year olds.

Average Freshman Class Age

2006 – 19 years, 6 months
2007 – 18 years, 11 months
2008 – 19 years, 1 month
2009 – 19 years, 7 months (projected)

Wow was the 2007 class young. If you were to take Craig Johnson (20 years, 10 months on October 1, 2007) out of the class, the average drops to 18 years, 8 months.

In 2006/2007, one of the biggest reasons the team struggled (or at least theorized by many) was that the team was young and inexperienced, all of this despite the age of the incoming players. The biggest frosh contributor that season was Jamie McBain (18 years, 7 months) w/ Michael Davies (19 years, 10 months) scoring some goals. While that class has turned into the heart of the current team it took them some time to get to that point. Perhaps inexperienced is a better way of describing the 06/07 and also 07/08 classes.

When I look at the 2009 class, I don’t see the same thing happening. I see three guys (Craig Smith, Derek Lee and Justin Schultz) who should be immediate contributors. I see three other guys (Tyler Barnes, Keegan Meuer and John Ramage) who could go from being a regular healthy scratch to playing every night the whole season, especially Ramage. Aaron Crandall probably won’t see much action. I’m also hoping 1st Star Zengerle finds his way to Madison; otherwise I think despite his words he’ll be donning a different uniform.

While there is still some season left, it’s always good to know that things are looking bright for next season. Eaves & company have assembled a really good class, it doesn’t have the high NHL draft pick appeal, but this group is talented and other than Schutlz we should see these kids in Madison for at least three seasons. Top to bottom these kids will come in ready to contribute to the program’s continued success. Hopefully that success reverts to challenging for WCHA titles and being a perennial NCAA team, instead of fighting for WCHA 1st round home ice and being on the NCAA bubble. I’m still bitter following this past weekend.