Last spring Wisconsin mens hockey coach Mike Eaves announced his team captains (Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan) shortly after the season had ended. As you already know, both players eventually signed contracts with the New York Rangers and both spent extensive time in the NHL this past year. This off-season Eaves has taken a more cautious approach and his choices have finally been revealed.
With all the incoming freshmen already on campus and the first day of workouts starting this week it's been announced that junior center Craig Smith and junior defenseman John Ramage (pictured) have been named as co-captains of the Badger mens hockey team. Junior winger Ryan Little and junior defenseman Justin Schultz have been named alternates.
With only one senior, defenseman Eric Springer scheduled to be on next seasons roster it was obvious that some younger players were going to have to step up into leadership roles. Smith was an alternate to captain Sean Dolan last season and was an obvious choice. Smith is coming back to Wisconsin after an outstanding performance in the IIHF Mens World Championships where he trailed only Stepan in scoring amongst Team USA forwards.
More on the newly anointed mens hockey captains after the jump.
It's no surprise that Ramage earned a "C" either. John was an integral part of the past two United States World Junior Championship teams and captained last seasons squad to a bronze medal in Buffalo, New York. Not known as a vocal leader, Ramage is respected by his teammates and coaches by his play on the ice. Ramage will be expected to log big minutes from the Badger blueline this season.
It's a huge year for Justin Schutlz as he was thrust into the spotlight last winter as a sophomore. Schultz was a top 10 Hobey Baker finalist and the WCHA defenseman of the year. He'll be a favorite for the Hobey this season and will be looked upon as a leader from his peers. One of the biggest reasons Schultz came back to Wisconsin for his junior season was to take a bigger leadership role.
Possibly a surprise to some, Sean Little rounds out the captains. After red shirting two seasons ago Little is a junior this year eligibility wise but this will be his fourth season in the program. I like the selection as Little has proven to be a selfless player in his time as a Badger. For the good of the program he took a red shirt AFTER playing as a freshman. Additionally, he was asked by the coaches to move to wing this past season from defense and never publicly challenged the decision. As a matter of fact he actually flourished in the role.
Overall I think the selections were excellent and I'm geeked about the Badgers chances next season. There is no clear cut favorite in the WCHA and the Badgers should have just as good of a chance at the McNaughton Cup as any team in the league. Only four more months until October.
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