Meet the Freshmen: Jake McCabe

As a product of Bucky's 5th Quarter's increased hockey coverage, we've started the "Meet the Freshmen" series where we'll be introducing you to a couple of incoming hockey freshmen every week leading up to the Badgers season opener October 7th versus Northern Michigan at the Kohl Center. Monday we featured goalie Landon Peterson and today the spotlight is on incoming defenseman Jake McCabe.

McCabe rolls into Madison after two seasons in Ann Arbor with the United States National Team Developemnt Program. As a member of last years U18 squad, things didn't exactly get off to the best start. Due to a stress fracture in his L-5 vertebra which was diagnosed late in the summer, McCabe missed a large chunk of action early in the season. McCabe was able to return in November and never looked back. Just weeks after missing nearly two months with the severe back injury McCabe was named the USHL defenseman of the week.

The Eau Claire, WI native would go on to record 16 points in 46 games for the U18 squad against competion that includes games internationally, in the USHL, and also against D1 and D3 college programs. McCabe's season culminated in a gold medal winning performance. McCabe was one of the anchors for Team USA's defense that took home the gold medal defeating Sweden in the championship game of the IIHF World Under 18 Championships in Crimmitschau, Germany.

Being a Wisconsin kid, the Badgers have always been on the radar of the 6'1, 195 pounder. McCabe played his freshman season of high school for Eau Claire Memorial which has also produced former Badger and current Dallas Stars forward Jake Dowell as well as current Badger sophomore forward Jefferson Dahl.

In an interview with the Hockey In Wisconsin website after his commitment McCabe explained while his other options (Minnesota, North Dakota, and Notre Dame) were nice, there's nothing that compares to Wisconsin.

"I was happy with the few schools I visited and I knew it was going to be between one of those. The whole time my mind was pretty set on Wisconsin but after visiting a couple more schools it was clear that Wisconsin was where me and my family felt like was the best fit for me."

Arguably the person I trust most on opinions of players who have recently played or are curerntly playing at the NTDP is United States of Hockey blogger Chris Peters who is a former employee of USA Hockey. His two scouting scouting reports on McCabe (One before, one after World U18 Championships) give outstanding prospective on McCabes game

Before the tournament:

"Coming into this season, McCabe was known more for his defensive prowess, but in an injury-shortened season, the Wisconsin native has shown some offense. At 6-0, 195, McCabe plays a solid, steady game. He’s not often going to make those costly errors that can bite a team in these short tournaments. He’s a strong kid too, so he should give opposing forwards fits when they’re battling him in the corners. He may not be draft eligible this year, but he can get a good head start for next with a solid showing. With his new-found offensive game and steady defensive play, he might not be a difference maker on D, but he’ll be a key cog for Ron Rolston’s squad. "

 After the tournament:

McCabe isn’t draft eligible until 2012, but I’m sure his stock is going to be high coming out of this tournament. He’s not the fastest guy, but he’s strong and steady. He provided good defense for Team USA throughout. Additionally, McCabe has shown improved offensive instincts. He’s getting the puck up ice easily with a good first past. He jumped into a few plays and created some chances in different parts of the tournament. McCabe accelerated his schooling so he could attend the University of Wisconsin next year, and I don’t doubt he’ll make an impact as a freshman. He gave Team USA a chance to keep the bench long. He was on the ice in many different situations and provided a versatile option for Ron Rolston off the bench.

Like Chris Peters mentioned in his last scouting report, McCabe accellerated his schooling to join the Wisconsin program for his senior season of high school, exactly what current sophomore forward Michael Mersch did last year. With an October, 1993 birthdate McCabe would have aged out of international competition with the NTDP and would have spent the upcoming season in the USHL full time. However not long after his committment to the Badgers shortly after his freshman year of high school, Badger head coach Mike Eaves encouraged McCabe to accellerate his schooling to graduate a year early and become a Badger for this fall.

McCabe, who's father Dave played for Alaska (CCHA) and brother Andrew played for Nebraska-Omaha before recently transfering to UW-Eau Claire should make an immediate impact for the Badgers. With the losses of Jake Gardiner to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Craig Johnson to graduation there will be immediate playing time for the young lefty. Justin Schultz, John Ramage, and Frankie Simonelli all will have playing time sewn up on the top two pairings. It will be a battle between Joe Faust, Eric Springer, and McCabe for minutes against other teams top forwards as well as time on special teams.

In my viewings of McCabe one of the major things that has stood out to me has been his ability to adapt to a faster game around him with ease. He's far from a flashy defenseman but has adjusted to his surroundings quickly at every level and plays with an uncommon poise for his age.

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves scouting report on McCabe:

"Jake McCabe is a young man from Eau Claire who is a well-rounded defenseman. He is very solid in his defensive game, but can see the game open up offensively. He'll be an all-round defenseman for us."

The Jake McCabe Profile:

  • Last Team: USA NTDP U18
  • Hometown: Eau Claire, WI
  • Size: 6'1, 195 lbs.
  • Handed: Left
  • Twitter Account: @McCabe19
  • Last Seasons Stats: 46 GP, 4 G, 12 A, 16 PTS, 14 PIM
  • 2011-2012 Projection: In my opinion he'll be in the opening night lineup and won't look back. I think he'll have a freshman season similar to Frankie Simonelli with a tad bit more consistency and couple more points. 41 GP, 4 G, 11 A, 15 PTS

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For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)

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