With Wisconsin officially eliminated from the NCAA tournament, it's that time of year where we have to start taking a serious look at who will be back with the Badgers next season. During Mike Eaves' tenure in Madison, 16 players have left early to sign either NHL contracts, or in the case of Jordy Murray, a pro contract in Switzerland.
In the past seven offseasons alone, Wisconsin has lost 15 players to pro contracts, presuming you're including Jason Clark, who signed with the New York Islanders but spent the past season in the ECHL. That total includes nine players who have left early in the past three seasons.
One player who is starting to generate NHL interest already this offseason is forward Michael Mersch, a 2011 fourth-round draft pick (110th overall) of the Los Angeles Kings.
A 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior winger, Mersch has elevated his play and his goal output to 23 from 14 last season. In 42 games this season, Mersch notched 23 goals and 13 assists for 36 points. Mersch led the Badgers in goals and points in the 2012-13 campaign.
The Kings have taken notice and plan to sit down with Mersch to try and lure him out of Madison, according to reports out of Los Angeles Wednesday.
#LAKings Lombardi also says he'll be mtg w/ several other college prospects- namely Michael Mersch and Nick Shore- to see about signing.— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) April 3, 2013
In an article printed March 14 in "Varsity," an online magazine published by UWBadgers.com, Mersch noted to Mike Lucas 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.
Granted, that quote came in the middle of the season, and no player is going to tell the media he plans to leave with games still to be played.
A message left for Mersch on Tuesday has not been returned.
While Mersch may fit an organizational need at left wing, he's very unlikely to play in the NHL in 2013-14. Mersch made considerable improvement in his skating, but still has work to do in that area, as well as overall strength before he's ready to contribute at the professional level.
We're also keeping an eye on freshman Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks), Mark Zengerle (Free Agent) and Tyler Barnes (Free Agent) as possible early departures. Jake McCabe (Buffalo Sabres) is expected to be back with the Badgers.
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