Craig Smith Leaving for the NHL

Badgers’ leading goal-scorer marks UW’s third early departure of offseason

MADISON, Wis. – With two years of collegiate eligibility remaining for the Wisconsin Badgers, forward Craig Smith will become a professional hockey player. The Madison, Wis., native is a 2009 fourth-round pick (98th overall) of the NHL’s Nashville Predators, the team of former Badgers Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion.

“We’re excited for Craig,” said Head Coach Mike Eaves. “The window of opportunity to make a move like this is sometimes small. The  landscape has changed with Nashville in that the team has changed somewhat with free  agency. Smitty had every thought after a successful senior men’s World Championship to  come back and play here at Wisconsin, but he feels like there is an opportunity now and  he feels in his heart it is the right time to go.”

Smith, who was slated to be one of Wisconsin’s co-captains for the upcoming season,  finished last year as the Badgers’ team leader with 19 goals. He ranked second on the  team with 43 points in 41 games, while leading the squad with five game-winning tallies  and 153 shots. He also took 31 penalties for 87 minutes. For his career, Smith finishes  with 27 goals, 76 points and 159 penalty minutes in 82 games.

Smith skated for Team USA in the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship where he posted three goals and six points in seven games, ranking second behind former Badger Derek Stepan for the team lead in scoring. His team-leading plus-2 helped the Americans reach the quarterfinals, where they fell to the Czech Republic.

Smith joins defenseman Jake Gardiner, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Jordy Murray, who left for Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the Swiss National League A (NLA), as early departures. Both Gardiner and Murray gave up one year of eligibility.

 

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Four Badgers Selected in NHL Draft Saturday

SELDEN, N.Y. —  One current and three incoming Badgers earned selection on Saturday at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, which was held at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Wisconsin’s four selected student-athletes were split among the fourth and seventh rounds of the

Michael Mersch

draft.

Joseph LaBate went highest, going 101st to the Stanley Cup runner-up Vancouver Canucks. The fourth-round pick arrives this fall in Madison from Academy of Holy Angels in Minnesota. An Eagan, Minn., native, the 6-4 forward was one of 10 finalists for the 2011 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award. He posted 27 goals and 49 points in 25 games this past season.

Just nine picks later, sophomore forward Michael Mersch went 110th to the Los Angeles Kings. A Park Ridge, Ill., native and a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, he scored eight goals and 19 points in 41 games at Wisconsin last season.

The second two Badgers selected came eight picks apart in the seventh round as defenseman Patrick Daly and forward Brad Navin went 189th to the New Jersey Devils and 197th to the Buffalo Sabres, respectively.

Daly, another 2011 Minnesota Mr. Hockey finalist, attended Benilde-St. Margaret’s in Richfield, Minn., this past season, collecting 40 points and going plus-52 in 27 games as a team co-captain. The Victoria, Minn., native also excelled at baseball during his high school career.

Navin, a Waupaca, Wis., native, led all juniors in Wisconsin in scoring with 53 goals and 92 points in 25 games played, then followed that up with 29 goals and 52 points in an injury-shortened 14-game senior season. He was named Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association First-Team All-State for both campaigns.

Navin attended the Sabres combine in Buffalo earlier this month and spoke to Sabres.com about the experience. 

“Everybody I met was awesome,” Navin said. “All the coaches that ran drills and interviewed me were awesome. I really enjoyed it.”

Five Badgers Ranked for NHL Draft

Mersch, Simonelli, LaBate among favorites to hear names called

 MADISON, Wis. –  Two current Badgers and three incoming Badgers are among the draft-eligible North Americanskaters ranked by the NHL Central Scouting Service. The 2011 NHL Entry Draft runs Friday and Saturday, June 24-25 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.  The first round takes place on Friday live on Versus beginning 6 p.m. CT, while rounds two through seven will air live Saturday on NHL Network beginning 10 a.m. CT.  Entering their sophomore seasons as Badgers, fellow Illinois natives and U.S. National Team Development Program products, Michael Mersch and Frankie Simonelli are among the strong hopefuls.  Click the links below to see what is being said about the Badger hopefuls.

Madison.com: Badgers trio on radar of NHL clubs this weekend

NHL.com draft profile: Mersch no stranger to hard work

NHL.com draft profile: Simonelli living a dream by playing at Wisconsin

NHL.com draft prospect card: Joseph LaBate

NHL.com draft prospect card: Brendan Woods 

NHL.com draft prospect card: Brad Navin



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