The NHL Draft is something that the University of Wisconsin Men's hockey program takes pride in. The school is known as a pro hockey factory to NHL teams and it's a major reason why players headed to Madison to advance their hockey career are annually selected high in the draft.
This year was no different as the Badgers saw three players from the program selected, including two in the second round. Notably, Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, WI) was selected 44th overall by the Buffalo Sabres becoming the ninth defenseman during the Mike Eaves era at Wisconsin to be chosen in the top two rounds.
The development McCabe will receive at Wisconsin is one of the reasons that Buffalo made the decision to draft the skilled do-everything blue-liner.
Kevin Devine (Director of Amateur Scouting, Buffalo Sabres) On Jake McCabe:
"We had McCabe rated at the end of the first round. We weren't sure if we were going to get a forward or a defenseman. He was too high up on our board. He played for Ron Rolston (Buffalo's top farm club's head coach) before, so we know him a little bit, his character. Plays for a Mike Eaves and Wisconsin, they have a very good history of defenseman, so we went that way."
Kevin Devine (Director of Amateur Scouting, Buffalo Sabres) video:
"We interviewed him at the Toronto combine, and like I said he did seem very mature. He suffered a little bit, had a (wrist) injury. So he missed about a month, six weeks I'm not sure if everyone got a real good look at him in college. Obviously with our relationship with Mike Eaves, we've got a player there in Brad Navin also. So we saw him, and we really liked what we saw. He's a guy that is going to be really tough to play against, and he's really good at moving the puck. Ron Rolston called him a warrior. At 6 feet and a half, he's close to 210 (pounds). Good pick I think."
Jake McCabe talking with the Buffalo media at the draft:
McCabe talking with media transcript:
On being drafted in the second round:
"It's pretty special. I wasn't really aware of how really fast this process went in the second round through seven. I was here last year for the first round last year supporting a buddy, fellow teammate Tyler Biggs. The names start flowing, one after another and your adrenaline starts rushing and you're hoping to hear your name eventually. Luckily enough I didn't have to wait around too long, it's a thrill."
On his contact with Buffalo:
"I had an interview with them at the combine. I didn't talk to them any more than any other team. You go into this process with a positive attitude, and just hope for the best. You wait around; enjoy the time with your family and friends. I had a big crew here, it was great. I wouldn't have been here without them; they have supported me my whole life. It's nice to experience (the draft) with them."
On his connection to Ron Rolston (Buffalo's top farm club's head coach):
"(Rolston) was my coach for two years in Ann Arbor at the National Development Program, great guy. One of the biggest things for me was each and every day he taught us to be a pro. Present yourself like a pro, you play like a pro. Eventually it will translate to not only in your hockey life, but your social life, just how you carry yourself. He's a great guy, I can't say anything bad about him, and he's a great coach."
On where he expected to be drafted:
"Truthfully, I expected to go right around here, which was a goal of mine. I didn't want to wait around too long today. So it's a good accomplishment, and it's a nice goal. Obviously it's a dream come true hearing my name called in the NHL Draft."
On his style of play:
"I'm a two way player; I'm a two way defenseman. I'm used in all situations; I'm comfortable in all situations. I think I'm a leader. I'm out there blocking shots for my teammates, and that's what I enjoy doing. I'm a competitor, that's when I'm at my best. I'm at my best when I'm out there making a good first hit, good first shift. I just want to be reliable in those situations, penalty kill, power play. I want to be, eventually be comfortable playing against team's top lines."
On who he compares himself to in the NHL:
"Especially this last playoffs, I can see myself as like a Dan Girardi. He wears a letter, he plays a lot of minutes. They'll throw him out there for the second power play. He obviously contributes offensively, but then again he's blocking shots defensively, he's on the penalty kill, sacrificing his body for his teammates. I really like his style of play, and it's fun watching him."
On if he'll head back to Wisconsin next season:
"I am, 100%. I'm in a great spot (at Wisconsin) for my development. We have a great team coming up these next couple of years. We have a legitimate shot at making a run at the National Title, and that's a huge goal of mine. I really want to get that accomplished before even thinking about making the next step."
On fellow Badger Brad Navin who was drafted by Buffalo last year:
"Brad Navin, he's a Wisconsin boy as well. Not only University, but he's born in Wisconsin like me. As a fellow freshman living across the hall from me this last year, so we're good buddies. Obviously it's a blur here these last fifteen minutes; it didn't even cross my mind that he's a draft pick of the Sabres. It's a thrill just going through this experience, obviously with my fellow Buffalo prospect now, that will be fun. Hopefully he's watching back home, and I'm sure he's laughing at me right now, but it's exciting."
On playing against older players this year in college:
"My adjustment period this year, was a little difficult. But I think the National Development Program really helped me with that process. We played college programs my under 18 year, so I think stepping into the role they gave me I did a pretty good job at it. I had an injury this year, which set me back. I was out for about 10 games, and that was just too bad, it was a freak injury. I came back pretty strong, and I think improved each series. So it definitely did help me playing that older competition."
Steph Greegor from Fox Sports Next interviewing McCabe at the Draft:
Steph Greegor interview transcript:
On how he's feeling after being drafted:
"Excited, obviously. It's a dream come true, and I was lucky enough to share it with my family, close friends and y grandparents. Big crew that has supported me my whole life, and supported me through this. Pretty special to have them come along and share this.
On who made the trip to the draft:
"I have my mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparents, couple close buddies of mine, and some close family friends."
On his mom's reaction:
"She cheered a little bit, and of course the tears came, right away. I knew that would happen, she's an emotional person. She's been along my side the whole way. I can't stress enough how special it is for them to be here with me and share this experience with me, it's awesome."
On his freshman year at Wisconsin:
"It was a little up and down, we struggled as a team. We were a little under achieving, we were young. I had an injury early on, it was a freak injury, so that was stressful. I was just getting into the college game, just starting to figure it out and then sure enough I get injured."
On what he learned through struggling last season as a team:
"You just have to battle through adversity. Like everyone said we were so young, but you can only use that excuse for so long. We just really listen to coach and just work hard in practice every single day and battle each other, by the end of the year we were playing our best hockey."
On what he brings to the Sabres:
"Reliable defenseman. I'm not a flashy offensive player. I don't do anything, you know, WOW. I don't have that WOW factor at all. But I think I'm a leader on the ice, I can play in all situations. I enjoy blocking shots, sacrificing my body for the team. I think I contribute offensively too."
On what he has learned the most in his college experience so far:
"That ‘pro' mentality. I have to balance school, my social life, hockey. Our rink right now is like a pro atmosphere. We get 15,000 fans a night, we get the most in college hockey. People come into that building, opposing teams, and they are wide eyed. It's just crazy, that's what they say every time, it's crazy."
On hearing from coaches and fellow players after being drafted:
"I haven't even be able to check my phone yet. But I was talking with some of my teammates back in Wisconsin. I don't know if they are up and watching yet, but I think they are going to be excited when they see Jake McCabe, and another incoming freshman Nic Kerdiles, he got drafted early today as well. So it was a great day to be a Badger, and we take pride in that, so it's good."
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