The most important factor in developing a championship-level roster is not only acquiring talent, but keeping it in your program. No one has learned that harder than Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves, who has seen more talent depart early for the NHL than any other coach in the WCHA over recent seasons.
By the sound of things, one player Eaves won't have to worry about this upcoming off-season is Michael Mersch.
In an article printed in Thursday's "Varsity," an online magazine published by UWBadgers.com, Mersch noted he plans to return to Madison for his senior season.
"I still have a lot of room to develop as a player," Mersch told the magazine.
Mersch was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round (110th overall) of the the 2011 NHL Draft. A team known for being patient with NCAA prospects, the Kings went on a remarkable run last spring and won the 2012 Stanley Cup.
A 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior winger, Mersch has elevated his play and his goal output to 22 from 14 last season. Following former Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion, Mersch is just the second Badger during Mike Eaves' tenure to record 20 goals in the regular season.
Currently, Mersch ranks third nationally with those 22 goals, quite a feat on a team that has been offensively challenged much of the 2012-13 season. In all, Mersch has accounted for almost 25 percent of the Badgers' goals.
With just three seniors departing and no underclassmen expected to bolt for greener pastures, next season has the potential makings of a special season for the Badgers. For the time being, however, they've still got a lot to play for this year.
Wisconsin opens the WCHA playoffs by hosting Minnesota-Duluth at the Kohl Center on Friday. If the Badgers are able to win the best-of-three series, they will advance to the Final Five in St. Paul next week.
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