Sunday, June 27, 2010

Project The Lineup: Early 2010 Edition

I'll admit that it's way too early for this, and that the chances that this is anywhere near what will happen when the Badgers take the ice versus Boston University to take the season is slim to none. But, it's fun to take a look at the puzzle pieces that we're going to have and how they are going to fit together.

With the Badgers losing 9 forwards off last seasons roster, there are going to be a lot of new faces up front. Coach Eaves has 7 freshmen forwards lined up to come in and play this season and virtually all of them should have an opportunity for ice time with only 14 forwards on the current roster.

This is the second time in the past two weeks that I've done this. I had a post made up and the lines and d-pair projected and then 2 days later Glen Sather decided to steal junior to be Derek Stepan away from us and totally ruined my lineup. So I'll give this my best shot and you tell me what you think.


Jordy Murray-Mark Zengerle-Craig Smith
Might be a bit of a reach to assume that we're going to put our three most talented offensive players on the same line but this is a combination that I think Eaves will have to try at some point to see how they play together. Smith can play center and did in the USHL but he plays better off the wing and Zengerle is a distributor who can feed Murray and Smith. Top line center duties usually go to a veteran but Zengerle is an 21 year old freshman who has lit up the BCHL two seasons in a row and will have high expectations right from the get go.

Derek Lee-Jason Clark-Podge Turnbull
I know that Eaves likes experience down the middle but when you lose four out of your top five centermen in one off season (Geoffrion, Stepan, Bendickson, Thurber) you're going to have to give some freshmen an opportunity. Clark is big and skilled and could really be an asset for us. Derek Lee saw minutes early last season but ended up as the odd man out. His talent is still real and a full season in the weight room should prove to be beneficial for him coming in to this year. Podge didn't get a fair shake until the playoffs last season and he was a physical force at the end of the year. Clark said in his interview after being drafted that he wants to become more physical at Wisconsin. If him and Podge can throw their bodies around they should create opportunities for a play making Derek Lee.

Tyler Barnes-Sean Dolan-Michael Mersch
Dolan is our only returning center and his experience should prove to be valuable with two freshmen wingers. Mersch is young and raw but has huge upside. A bit of a wild buck, he has the ability to put points on the board. Barnes is an experienced USHL veteran and should have little problems making an adjustment to the WCHA. Barnes is going to be counted upon to put up points this season. This should be a physical line that has plenty of scoring ability.

Patrick Johnson-Jefferson Dahl-Sean Little
Two more freshmen on this line. I'm convinced that Sean Little will be a regular in the lineup on the fourth line this season. He's not going to put up 25 points a season, but like Ben Grotting before him, the little things he brings to a team are worthy of him suiting up. Patrick Johnson needs to have a bounce back season. He has the ability and I'm convinced that after watching the Frozen Four last season from the stands that he'll be hungry and ready to contribute this year after being invisible for the past two seasons. Jefferson Dahl has outstanding vision and can play in all situations. Short but shifty, Dahl should put up some points this year no matter where he is playing.

Gavin Hartzog, Keegan Meuer
Hartzog and Meuer will both get opportunities to play this season. Hartzog does have a lot of upside with his size/skill package and it will be good for him to get in the weight room with the Wisconsin strength and conditioning staff. Meuer isn't on the team to be a token local kid, he can play when called upon and with so many freshmen this season, he'll see ice time and it will be up to him to prove his worth.

Defense With McDonagh

Why change what has worked in the past? These two were our top pairing last season and I see no reason why that should change. If McDonagh is back, we've certainly got four high end guys and can afford to pair two of them together on a top pairing to shut down the opposing teams top line. I would expect this pairing to see a lot of ice time.

This is the season where Justin Schultz goes from an above average WCHA defenseman to an elite defenseman. Simonelli has faced tough competition with the NTDP and is more than ready to step into the UW lineup with no snags. This combination has the potential to be elite puck movers while still being solid in their own end.

Ramage is obviously going to be a lock for the lineup and you can play him with anyone. It will be interesting to see who Eaves and Butters give the first opportunity to in the 6th defenseman spot. Like I mentioned previously, I think Simonelli will be in the lineup for sure so it's going to come down to Springer, Johnson, R. Little, and Drake to step up and take the last spot. I'm giving Springer the early nod because he brings more offensive flair to the position than the rest at this point. I still expect Johnson, Little, and Drake all to be given an opportunity at some time.

Johnson-R. Little-Drake