Monday, April 16, 2007

UW's Freshmen Forwards: Weakness Now & Strength Later?

The Badgers' Freshman recruiting class was ranked first this season, largely behind the high draft selections of defenseman Nigel Williams, defenseman Jamie McBain and Forward Blake Geoffrion. Nigel Williams only lasted a month before he packed his bags and headed for the OHL. Jamie McBain had a very good season and immediately fit in on the blue line. Blake Geoffrion and the rest of the forwards were not able to contribute a whole lot to the offense this season, other than Mike Davies who finished third in points and second in goals.

Despite the Freshman forwards struggling as a group and being a weakness for the Badgers this season, I can see the possibility that this group could end up being a strength over the next three seasons. For one thing, they are a large class of forwards, totaling seven players: John Mitchell, Ben Grotting, Mike Davies, Blake Geoffrion, Aaron Bendickson, Zach Bearson and Andy Bohmbach. They are also a group of players that by and large are likely to be around for the next three or four seasons, which is one reason I can see that they may be a strength for the team down the line. The Badgers lost five forwards this offseason and at this point only plan to replace them with four players: Kyle Turris, Josh Turnbull, Patrick Johnson and Sean Dolan. Potentially Chris Hickey could also be added to the mix, but there has been absolutely no talk of that by the staff. That means there will likely only be 2 forwards not suited up for every game, and that the current class of Freshmen forwards will have a big chance to contribute night in and night out throughout the season next year. Even further in their careers, the fact that this large group of Freshmen forwards will be around should pay big dividends for the Badgers, especially in cushioning the losses of forwards that bolt early for the NHL.

Next season there will only be one Senior forward-Matt Ford as well as two Junior forwards-Tom Gorowsky and Ben Street. The maturation of this year's freshmen forwards will be critical for the Badgers. Hopefully it will become a strength of the team sooner than later.