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Thursday, June 20, 2024
Wisconsin Ohio Men's Hockey 3/10 8

Future stars: A dive into some of the Badgers’ future NHL players

While several Wisconsin men’s hockey players have committed to the NHL, these Badgers stand out.

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team currently has 12 NHL commits among its 26 rostered players. 

Much of the current roster’s success in the Big Ten this season can be attributed to these players. But some of them stand out above the rest — both in stats and playmaking — when evaluating their contributions to the Badgers’ 26-11-2 record. 

The freshmen stars

Quinn Finley has made a statement as a freshman. Playing in 35 of 39 total games this season, Finley had 15 points, two of which came from the season opener against Augustana at the Kohl Center in October. Finley joined the Badgers after finishing a dominant season with USHL team Chicago Steel, where he recorded 38 points in 32 games after earning 27 points with his previous USHL team Madison Capitols during the same season. 

Finley’s unique size and stature make him a weapon wherever he is on the ice. When Finley gets the puck in the Badgers’ zone, he speeds up the ice with seemingly no effort, stickhandling past defensemen as if it’s second nature. He can read defensemen and sets up plays with ease. 

Finley was selected 78th overall in the 2022 NHL draft and will look to continue zooming around the ice with the New York Islanders after his time with the Badgers. 

Finley’s classmate and Minnesota native William Whitelaw has also been a consistent threat. Whitelaw is often in the right place at the right time, having two more points than Finley and scoring a crucial shootout goal against Minnesota in February. 

Chosen second in the third round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Whitelaw currently leads the Badgers with 121 total shots. With his small and agile build, Whitelaw skirts defensemen for quick shots on net, leading to goals or rebound opportunities. This matches his playstyle from last year on the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms, during which Whitelaw led the team with 237 total shots

The experienced leaders

Graduate student Owen Lindmark’s dominance will be an irreplaceable trait on the Badgers. Picked in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL Draft, the Florida Panthers hold Lindmark’s rights until the end of this year and will have to get to work in the minors to have an opportunity to earn an entry-level contract (ELC) with the club.  

Lindmark managed to score 21 points despite playing in just 27 games this season. His most recent point was assisting the only regulation goal scored in a shootout win against Minnesota in February. 

Lindmark's veteran status and ability to make the most of every game he plays in are crucial qualities for the upcoming NCAA Tournament at the end of March. With Lindmark’s effectiveness and leadership, the Badgers hope to bounce back from unimpressive performances against Ohio State this past weekend. 

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Sophomore forward Cruz Lucius’s contributions to the Badgers are equally unmatched. Selected 124th overall in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes and recently traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lucius currently leads the Badgers in total points and is tied for 39th nationally in points per game

Lucius is the ultimate team player. Third on the team in assists, Lucius told Big Ten Network last month that his playmaking and “always wanting the puck” on his stick are core tenets of his playstyle. 

Lucius always manages to find the open guy and makes the right play in key games. He’s no stranger to playmaking, recently displayed by his leading effort for the U.S. National U17 Team in assists in the 2020-21 season. 

These players have cemented themselves as some of the best on a formidable Badgers team, and each and every one of their invaluable qualities will be necessary if Wisconsin hopes to succeed in the postseason later this month. 

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