Four members of the 2006 National Championship team have placed themselves firmly as mainstays in the NHL, and spent most, if not all, of the past season at the highest level. Several other Championship Season Badgers (Jack Skille, Jake Dowell and Davis Drewiske) spent chunks of last season in the big show as well. (hopefully I didn't forget someone???) So which mainstay had the best season? Each brings a different game/role to the ice each night, and in the end stats certainly don’t tell the whole story. This is a tough vote.
Joe Pavelski – The former All-American enjoyed his best season yet in a San Jose Sharks uniform. Pavs was the 4th leading scoring on the Sharks (third in goals) and helped the organization to their first President’s Trophy for best regular season record. Unfortunately, the playoffs didn’t go so well, as the Sharks were ousted in the first round. Pavs is also a key part of both sides of the special teams’ spectrum for the Sharks.
Stats: 80 games, 25-34-59, +5, 46 PIM, 8 PP goals, 3 SH goals, 19 min/game and 56.3% faceoff winning % on 1250 faceoffs
Brain Elliott – After starting the year in the AHL, the Ottawa Senators saw their future and called Elliott up to the NHL. Playing for a bad team, he managed to record some nice stats, and will hopefully be between the pipes in the NHL for many years to come. Not bad for a 9th round pick and former All-American who almost wasn't even a Badger.
Stats: 31 games, 16-8-3, 2.77 GAA, 0.902 save %, w/ 1 SO
Adam Burish – The former Team Captain (which is mentioned in about every game he plays in) continues to play a critical role for the Chicago Blackhawks. Burish has arguably become one of the best PKers in the NHL and does a great job as a 4th line energy guy/grinder/fighter/agitator. Of this group, his team has had the most success in the playoffs, and his name has been praised regularly for things that don’t show up on score sheets. Hard not to like Burish who is a fan favorite in the Windy City.
Stats: 66 games, 6-3-9, +3, 93 PIM (way down from last season)
Tom Gilbert – After setting a few Edmonton Oilers rookie defenseman records (formerly held by Paul Coffey) Gilbert signed a huge contract, and didn’t disappoint in his sophomore season in the NHL. He played in all 82 games for the Oil, was 4th on the team in points and 2nd in assists (t-9th overall in assists by Dmen in the NHL). As my favorite alumni I follow some Oilers blogs, and everything coming out of Alberta is generally nothing but praise for the former All-American.
Stats: 82 games, 5-40-45, +6, 26 PIM, 2 PP goals, 22 min/game.