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Friday, June 21, 2024

Cole Caufield rips a shot against Penn State. The sophomore forward has kept up his high production so far.

Catch up with former Badgers in the NHL

As playoffs approach after the All-Star Weekend, how are former Wisconsin players lining up in the Cup picture?

The 2023-24 NHL Season is well under way. The Badgers in the league are a fun mix of young and exciting players as well as veterans enjoying their later years. 

Here’s a look at how some of the Badgers-turned-NHL players are performing this season.  

Cole Caufield

The Stevens Point-area native was selected 15th overall in the 2019 draft. As is commonplace for many junior hockey players, Caufied played for his high school and a developmental team, was drafted following his junior playing days, and then fulfilled his collegiate commitment. Caufield was a member of the Badgers from 2019 through 2021, and he was electric in those two seasons. In his freshman year alone, Caufield led the Big Ten in scoring, was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and took home First-Team All-Big Ten honors. 

Caufield turned it up in his sophomore season. He led the nation in scoring with 30 goals and 52 points, was selected as a First-Team All-American and won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s best collegiate hockey player.   

Caufield’s fourth season in the NHL is on pace to be the best of his career thus far. The standout right winger has been one of the bright spots on the lowly Montreal Canadiens, who stand at 22-28. Caufield has a career-best 45 points this season, the second-best mark on the Canadiens. He also upped his assist numbers this season with 26. 

While Montreal is not a playoff contender this year, they have a great young core with the 23-year-old Caufield and the 24-year-old Nick Suzuki. Expect them to be on the rise within the next few seasons.

K’Andre Miller

K’Andre Miller, one of Caufield’s old teammates at Wisconsin, is in the midst of a productive fourth season for the New York Rangers. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Miller was a member of the Badgers from 2018-2020, where he scored 40 points in his two seasons. The Rangers drafted him 22nd overall in 2018.

Miller has been a great defenseman for the Stanley Cup-hopeful Rangers, who sit at 47-22 this season. Splitting time with former Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba for the first defenseman pairing, Miller has proven himself as a key piece to the Rangers success this year. 

Miller has scored a respectable 20 points, including a two-goal, 3-point night against the Washington Capitals in December. 

The Dallas Stars

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The Dallas Stars have three former Badgers on their squad: Craig Smith, Ryan Suter and Joe Pavelski. All three are key veteran players for the Stanley Cup contenders. 

Smith, a Madison native, was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Nashville Predators after playing for the Badgers from 2009 to 2011. In his 13th NHL season, Smith has been a serviceable fourth-line forward, playing in the majority of Dallas’ games and scoring seven goals on the season. 

Fellow Madison native Ryan Suter was chosen seventh overall by Nashville in the 2003 draft. The defenseman spent the 2003-04 season with the Badgers and was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team and the All-WCHA Third Team. 

During his 19-year career with the Predators, the Minnesota Wild and the Stars, Suter has finished in the top five three times for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman. The 39-year-old veteran has been a solid third pair defenseman in his most recent season, with 14 points on the year.  

Joe Pavelski, the last active member of the Badgers’ 2006 National Championship team, has enjoyed a fruitful 18 seasons in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks and the Stars. The Stevens Point native was a late round gem, selected in the seventh round of the 2003 draft. Pavelski scored 101 points during his two seasons with the Badgers from 2004 to 2006.

Pavelski was an integral part of the dominant mid-2010s Sharks along with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns. During his career, he finished twice on the Hart Trophy ballot for league MVP and 14 times on the Selke Trophy ballot for best defensive forward. He has been a consistent scorer throughout his career and became the first Badger to eclipse the 1000-point career total last season.  

Pavelski is still an amazing player at 39 years old. With a team fourth-best 47 points in 57 games, he could be the key piece to the puzzle that pushes Dallas over the hump to win their first Stanley Cup since 1999. 

While a Badger might not be coming home with a Hart Trophy this season, there are still several quality Wisconsin alumni in the NHL. From the up-and-coming talent to the guys in their twilight, Badgers are having an all-around great season.  

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