Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers in the Bigs: Previewing the season for some of Wisconsin’s best NHL players

What to expect out of seven former Badgers as the NHL season gets underway
Ahmad Hamid
Badger Men’s Hockey vs Minnesota Duluth

Temperatures starting to dip can only mean one thing — it’s almost hockey season!

While the Badger hockey team didn’t start their home regular season until Oct. 14 against St. Cloud State, many former Badgers were already playing in the big leagues. The NHL season kicked off Oct. 7, and there will likely be 16 Badgers on opening night rosters. Many of these players have key seasons ahead that could determine whether they get their next contract, make their first all-star game or win their first Stanley Cup.

Here are some of the Badgers with key seasons ahead of them:


Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens

The former Hobey Baker Award winner turned Montreal Canadien has had an up-and-down start to his NHL career. After having a breakout performance in Montreal’s 2020 Stanley Cup Finals run, expectations for Caufield were sky-high heading into his first full season in the league.

To start the season, however, his play fell well short of those lofty predictions with a paltry 1 goal and 7 assists in his first 30 games for Montreal and even got sent down to the minor leagues with Montreal’s AHL affiliate, Laval Rocket.

Things took a turn for Caufield following Montreal’s hiring of former all-star winger Martin St. Louis as their interim head coach. Cole finished the season on fire, with 22 goals and 13 assists in the final 37 games.

Looking forward, Cole should be able to build on his strong end to the season and potentially make his first all-star game appearance as Montreal continues their rebuild under now permanent head coach St. Louis.

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K’Andre Miller, New York Rangers

Former first-round pick K’Andre Miller is poised to enter his third season with the Rangers as a strong top four defensemen. The former Badger has had a solid start to his career with the Rangers, highlighted by his central role in the team’s Eastern Conference final run last season. This year, Miller should continue to play second-pair defensemen minutes for the Rangers as they hope to win their first Metropolitan title since 2015 and win their fifth Stanley Cup.

Alex Turcotte, Los Angeles Kings

Alex Turcotte is perhaps the only player on the list who may not be on an NHL Roster to start the season.

The fifth-overall pick in 2019 has had a rocky start to his NHL career with injuries and lack of production limiting him to just eight appearances for the Kings to date. Unfortunately, Turcotte has been forced to miss training camp thus far due to a concussion sustained in the AHL playoffs last season. As a result, Turcotte will likely start the season with the Kings AHL affiliate, The Ontario Reign.

There will, however, be opportunities for Turcotte to play for the Kings later in the season, as fans are eager to see if he can start to live up to his potential.

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Ryan McDonagh, Nashville Predators

One of two Badgers currently playing with a Stanley Cup, Ryan McDonagh will start the season in new colors after five successful seasons and two Stanley Cups with Tampa Bay.

Over this past offseason, McDonagh was traded to Nashville to allow Tampa Bay to clear cap space and re-sign defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak. In Nashville, Mcdonagh will hope to shore up a defense that allowed more than 5 goals per game in a 4 game first-round playoff sweep by the Colorado Avalanche last season.

Trent Frederic, Boston Bruins

The 2022-23 season will be a massive year for former first-round pick Trent Frederic with his contract expiring in the summer.

For the past 2 years, Frederic has featured regularly for the Bruins as a bottom-six forward. However, his overall points production has not reached the heights of the 17 goal, 15 assist season he had for the Badgers in 2018. With his next big payday on the line, Frederick must prove that he’s more than just a fourth-line role player for a Boston team poised for another run at the Stanley Cup.

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Brendan Smith, New Jersey Devils 

After splitting the first 11 years of his NHL career between the Rangers and the Red Wings, Brendan Smith signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes last year. This resulted in a solid year for Carolina, with Smith appearing in about half the team’s regular season games before cementing his spot as a third-line defenseman for appearances in all 14 playoff games. These performances earned him a two-year, $2.2 million deal with New Jersey this offseason as he hopes to provide veteran leadership on a Devils team striving to find the right balance between youth and experience.

Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars

Likely the best Badger NHL player since Chris Chelios, the former seventh-round pick will suit up for another season with Dallas as he strives to finally cap his fantastic 16-year career with a Stanley Cup championship. Following an 81-point all-star season last year, Pavelski was rewarded with a one-year, $5.5 million extension by Dallas this past offseason. Pavelski will start as the Stars’ first-line right wing as the Stars hope to rebound after a disappointing playoff exit last May.

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