Gandalf got to give a crack at his line projections last week and I'll give my opinion this week. This is a mix on what I think the lines will actually be and what I think they should be.
Jordy Murray-Craig Smith-Mark Zengerle
I think this gives you a clear cut #1 unit that's going to put up numbers every night. Smith is shifting back to center this season after playing on the wing last year and he's poised to take over the #1 center duties. Murray is a guy you love to have on your line because he'll do anything to get you the puck. Zengerle is a play maker and needs to be an immediate contributor if the Badgers are going to go anywhere.
Jason Clark-Podge Turnbull-Tyler Barnes
Some may think I'm being a bit aggressive with three freshmen in my top 6 forwards but in my opinion talent plays, and these guys need to play. Barnes has spent the past two years in the USHL and will be an immediate contributor at this level. Clark is huge, left handed and can play. Podge is projected to move to center for the first time in his Badger career. I think he can handle it but if the experiment doesn't work out, Zengerle can be moved back to center.
Michael Mersch-Sean Dolan-Derek Lee
Dolan is the captain and the consummate veteran centerman. Our third line needs to be effective and Dolan should be the stable center this line needs. Mersh when I've scouted him seems to be a bit of a wild bull at times. Derek Lee just needs an opportunity to play every night. He can be a 20 point player easily this season.
Patrick Johnson-Jefferson Dahl-Ryan Little/Sean Little
I'm hoping that this line is going to be an effort line for us. Maybe PJ doesn't have the scoring ability that we thought after his freshman year but he can work his tail off on this line to give us a spark. Jefferson is one of the smartest hockey players I've ever watched and can handle the responsibility defensively. Still not sure if Ryan Little is a full time forward or not, but one of the two Littles needs to be on this line to bring a physical presence that can spark the entire team.
Gavin Hartzog-Keegan Meuer-Sean Little
We certainly don't have the depth that we had last year. These guys might get opportunites but they are going to need to be ready in case of injuries at all times. All are unproven at this point.
Jake Gardiner-John Ramage
We need a full time top pairing and I couldn't think of two players better suited for that then Ramer and Gards. Gardiner has played big minutes since he was a freshman and it's his turn to be the man. Ramage is rock solid and tough to play against.
Eric Springer-Justin Schultz
I originally had Schultz and Simonelli and Johnson and Springer paired up but decided to match a left hander and a right hander on each pair. Schultz, who ran our PP as a freshman obviously has the skills to excel at this level. Springer will be given an opportunity to prove that he can be an every night player.
Craig Johnson-Frankie Simonelli
Johnson has been a steady player when given an opportunity and the walk on will be given a shot this season to help mentor young Simonelli from the NTDP. I think Frankie will be a regular in the lineup and this can be a pairing that I wouldn't be afraid of playing against other teams best players.
Chase Drake-Joe Fuast
I fully expect both Drake and Fuast to get chances early in the season to prove that they are worthy of cracking the Wisconsin lineup. Both have talent but it's a chore to crack this unit.
Scott Gudmandson-Brett Bennett
In my opinion we have goaltender 1A and 1B. I fully understand that Gudmandson took the reigns at the end of last season and was the goalie in the nets during the Frozen Four. One thing that the public doesn't understand is how much Brett Bennett's shoulder injury affected his play in the second half of the season. Rumors are that he had off season surgery to clean up the shoulder so he should be full go. I see a strict goalie rotation the first half until one of the two takes the job in the second half. DO NOT write off Brett Bennett.
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