Monday, August 31, 2009

WCH Best of the West

The Western College Hockey Blog continues their countdown of the top players entering the WCHA/CCHA and that includes two Badgers.

#20 Derek Lee

Role he'll likely play: Lee fills a role that the Badgers really haven't had in recent years: a small playmaker who excels at setting up his teammates. Mike Davies is a small, offensively gifted player, but he has nearly as many goals as assists in his college career, whereas Lee is more likely to have at least 2 assists for every goal he scores. Lee could be a valuable asset, especially on the powerplay, where he has the ability to set up some of Wisconsin's big defensemen at the point.

Why he is ranked here: Lee was an outstanding player in the BCHL for three years, so his numbers declined a bit last season when he switched teams, and there are some concerns about his game translating to the next level due to his lack of size.

Why he'll be great: Lee has shown the ability, if he finds the right chemistry, to pick up a lot of assists. The fact that Wisconsin doesn't have a lot of players like him means that if he's good, he'll play a lot.

Why he might not: It's not easy to play in the WCHA at just 165 lbs. He might have to add some weight before he really stars to be effective.

Contrived Rivals-style star ranking: 3 and a half stars

#26 Craig Smith

Role he'll likely play: With 16 forwards on the roster, Smith will have to really fight to find ice time on a deep Wisconsin team, but there's a number of older forwards on the team he should be able to beat out to get pretty consistent ice time.

Why he is ranked here: After two fairly average seasons in the USHL, Smith had a breakout year last season, scoring 76 points and being among the league leaders in +/-. His effort got him drafted in the NHL Draft in his final year of draft eligibility. If scoring like that becomes a habit and not a fluke, Smith could be an excellent college player.

Why he'll be great: Smith has always been regarded as a player with a lot of potential. Last year, that potential started to come together. If he continues building on that, he could become one of Wisconsin's top forwards.

Why he might not: Wisconsin has a glut of forwards and it could be hard for Smith to really show his abilities in a more limited role, at least early on in his career.

Contrived Rivals-style star ranking: Three and a half stars

Chris makes some good points about both players. I think Smith will play almost every night this season, he is a big strong kid coming off a great season. Lee may or may not be limited by his size and strength (see Garrett Roe at SCSU), I think he'll play a lot but of the two I think Smith will contribute more as a frosh.