Last week during Wisconsin's bye week I started to think about the players that the Badgers had lost at various times to the pros and started thinking about all the guys who had stepped up this season for Wisconsin to fill the roles of those departures.
But what I really thought would be fun to look at was what the Badger lineup would look like this season if all the players that had originally committed to the Badgers ended up as four year players in Madison like it used to be done in the old days.
There are currently 5 players who played for the Badgers that have left early to sign pro contracts, and 3 of them are in the NHL and two in the AHL. Another player who was supposed to come to Wisconsin ended up in the OHL and and is now in the NHL.
Derek Stepan who left the Badgers last year would be a junior on this seasons club. The Hastings native has been in the NHL all season with the Rangers and is currently the third leading scorer on the team with 31 points in 56 games trailing only Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik.
Kyle Turris, who was one of, if not the most highly touted freshmen ever to step on campus is enjoying his third professional season of hockey. Turris, who would be a senior for the Badgers this season left the Badgers after leading the team in scoring as a freshman at the urging of former Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. Turris, who has struggled at times as a pro has 18 points in 45 games this season.
Ryan McDonagh, who most thought was the most pro ready of the Wisconsin departures over the summer has made a smooth transition to the NHL with the Rangers after spending the first half of the season in the AHL. Easing him into the lineup the blueshirts were playing McDonagh 10 or 12 minutes a night but recently he's been playing between 18 and 22 minutes.
One player who never made it to Wisconsin but could have been a senior this season is Sam Gangner from the Edmonton Oilers. I haven't told many people this but there hasn't been a prospect that committed to Wisconsin that I was more excited about. I obviously want Wisconsin to land every player but I wanted Gagner the most. When he committed it felt like Christmas. When word started leaking out a year or so later that he was thinking about going to the OHL it was devastating. The London Knights pulled one of the shadiest moves in the book hiring his father as an assistant coach and Sam went with. Currently Gagner has 33 points in 53 games which is good enough for second on the last place Edmonton Oilers in scoring.
Soon after Gagner committed to Wisconsin, two of his former teammates from the Toronto Marlboros Hockey Club Brendan Smith and Cody Goloubef followed suit. Goloubef who would be a senior on the Badgers this season is spending his first professional season in the American League with the Springfield Falcons, the top farm club of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Cody has been in and out of the lineup so far this year with Springfield and has registered 12 points in 30 games.
The third member of the Toronto trio, Brendan Smith has enjoyed his first season as a pro. Another player who would be a senior at Wisconsin, Smith was named to the American Hockey League All-Star game as a rookie which is an unusual feat. The Red Wings prospect has played great in Grand Rapids but was unable to play in the All-Star game due to a shoulder injury. Reports out of Grand Rapids today say that Smith is back to practice and is expected to play this weekend. Smith currently has 22 points in 40 games.
So what would that Badger lineup look like this season if these players all stayed for their four years of eligibility? It's really tough to say because who knows if some of the current players on our team would even still have ended up Badgers. The d-pairings are pretty easy because I would set it up exactly like last year but it would be interesting to see how Eaves would have inserted Gagner, Turris, and Stepan into the lineup. Here is my best guess as to what the lineup would look like.
Sam Gagner-Kyle Turris-Mark Zengerle
Jordy Murray-Derek Stepan-Craig Smith
Michael Mersch-Podge Turnbull-Tyler Barnes
Patrick Johnson-Sean Dolan-Ryan Little
Ryan McDonagh-Jake Gardiner
Brendan Smith-John Ramage
Cody Goloubef-Justin Schultz
I only can think of one word to describe that lineup. Sick.
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