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Season Preview: Wisconsin

My pick for 4th place in the WCHA is Wisconsin.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Ross Carlson C Ben Street RW Jack Skille
LW Jake Dowell C Andrew Joudrey RW Matt Ford
LW Zach Bearson C Tom Gorowsky RW Blake Geoffrion
LW Andy Brandt C Mike Davies RW Ben Grotting
LD Jeff Likens RD Kyle Klubertanz G Brian Elliott
LD Matt Olinger RD Jamie McBain G Shane Connelly
LD Joe Piskula RD Nigel Williams

Strengths:


Getting Brian Elliott back in goal was huge for Wisconsin. Shane Connelly has a year of experience under his belt and should be more ready to play if he has to again this season. Wisconsin is going to need to rely on their defense to win games this season because they’re severely lacking in offense. The defense lost their best player in Tom Gilbert, but they’re still a solid group that should provide good protection.

Weaknesses:

The Badgers have lost their top 5 leading scorers from last season. Jack Skille looks like he’s blossoming into an elite player. They’ve some hard-working grinders like Dowell and Joudrey, but they’re not going to be consistent scorers.

Question Marks

Do the Badgers have a top line center? I picked Ben Street, who had a solid year last season, but the Badgers will somebody to step into that role. Can Brian Elliott win the Hobey? I think it's doubtful because Wisconsin won't be as dominant as they were in the first half of last season.

Overall:

This could be a bit of an ugly year for the Badgers. Even if they do finish fourth, which is the highest I think they could finish, they’re going to have to do it with ugly, boring trapping hockey. Their defense isn’t overwhelmingly good, but they’ve got some good defensive-minded forwards that should help their team defense. I see them winning a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 games this year.

Key Player:
Jack Skille. Skille started to show some flashes of brilliance at the end of last season. With Robbie Earl and Joe Pavelski gone off the top line, a lot of the scoring responsibility will fall on Skille’s shoulders. He was impressive at Chicago’s prospect camp, and will be playing to earn the rookie maximum contract with the Blackhawks next season.

Breakout Player: Tom Gorowsky. Gorowsky had an impressive junior career, winning Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey award and being picked first overall in the USHL Entry Draft, and having an impressive USHL career. But he struggled to find his way into the lineup last year, only playing 18 games, and registering two assists. He should see more consistent ice time this season that will allow him to showcase his talent a little better. Wisconsin will be desperate for scorers this season, and Gorowsky has proven he can do that in the past.

Bellwether: A good indication of how the Badgers are playing is the number of shots that their defenseman block. When they were at their best last season, their defenseman did an excellent job of holding the opposition to the perimeter and blocking a lot of shots in front of Brian Elliott. When they played poorly, a lot of shots were getting through to Elliott, causing a lot of scoring chances.

Did You Know?

Ross Carlson, from Duluth, is the Badgers leading returning scorer this season. If he leads the Badgers in scoring, he will be the first Badger that did not come from Wisconsin or Alberta to lead the Badgers in scoring since Brad Englehart in 1996-97.

Madison is considered the birthplace of the Progressive Party thanks to Governor/Senator Robert LaFollette. LaFollette’s magazine The Progressive, is still published in Madison today.

Comedian Chris Farley hailed from Madison.

If You Go There

You Have to Eat At: Anywhere that serves bread. Because you’re probably going to be drinking a lot of beer.

You Have to Visit: State Street, which leads from the campus to Capitol square and is lined with various shops and restaurants.