I've been joking around with the term NHL-University in reference to Wisconsin for a while now, using it as a thread title on the USCHO boards, and using it as a twitter hash tag whenever a former Badger has a big night in the NHL. But is the term really that far from the truth?
This season alone, 20 former Badgers have played in the National Hockey League, including 17 who are currently on an NHL roster. Think about that for a second, only 20 players suit up for an NHL roster per night. The Badgers could have their own NHL team this season. As always, don't forget to check BetUS’ hockey lines, the #1 place online for all your NHL wagering needs.
Obviously other NCAA squads have been putting people in the NHL but the run that Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves and the Badgers are on is nothing short of impressive. Fifteen of those twenty players in the NHL this season played for Mike Eaves at Wisconsin. Off last seasons roster alone, Wisconsin has put three players into the show who have made significant contributions.
Derek Stepan out of Hastings, Minnesota shocked many when he decided to sign with the New York Rangers this summer after his sophomore season in Madison. Checking out the rookie leaders on NHL.com, the young forward has put himself in the discussion for rookie of the year with his 41 points in 77 games which is good for sixth in the NHL amongst all rookies.
Getting the call to the NHL after half a season in the American League, Ryan McDonagh has had a seamless transition to the big apple. The Rangers rookie blueliner is playing in a top 4 role and is an amazing +17 in only 35 games this season.
The third player off last seasons Badger squad who has drawn attention in the NHL this season has been Blake Geoffrion. The 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner has 6 goals and 7 points in just 15 games for Nashville this season.
But those three aren't the only players that have played on the worlds biggest stage after studying with Mike Eaves in Madison. Guys like Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter, Tom Gilbert, and Rene Bourque have all become stars in the NHL after their careers in Madison. Young guys like Jamie McBain, Kyle Turris, and Jack Skille all possess the ability to join the previous four I mentioned in that star class.
But it's not just the stars that Eaves is developing in Mad-Town. He's taught guys like Adam Burrish, Jake Dowell, Davis Drewiske, and to a lesser extent Brian Elliott and Robbie Earl what it takes to make it at the NHL level without All-World ability.
The next wave of Wisconsin NHL stars is on the horizon. Jake Gardiner, who just signed an NHL contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs should see time in the NHL next season. Same goes for guys like Brendan Smith (Detroit) and Cody Goloubef (Columbus) who are both knocking on the NHL doorstep.
The talent doesn't end there, Justin Schultz and Craig Smith who are both expected back for the Badgers next season both have the NHL in their futures. Numerous other players on the current roster also will have an opportunity at some time to play in the show.
The pipeline isn't bare either. Incoming freshman forward Joseph LaBate is expected to be a second round pick in the upcoming NHL draft this spring and incoming freshman defenseman Jake McCabe (who isn't eligible until the 2012 draft) is also looked at as a top 4 round kid. Additionally NTDP forward and 2012 recruit Nicolas Kerdiles and Salmon Arm (BCHL) forward Morgan Zulinick are expected to be top prospects for the 2012 draft.
So while other schools are taking criticism for their ability (or lack there of) to develop players these days, don't forget what Mike Eaves is doing for the Badgers.
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