Michael Mersch signing with the Los Angeles Kings was gravy on top of a stellar senior season. However, on Wednesday the Badgers hockey program took a big hit for the 2014-15 season as Jake McCabe signed his three-year, entry level contract with the team that drafted him—the Buffalo Sabers.
McCabe is expected to make an immediate debut for the Sabers on Thursday in St. Louis, as he was a 2nd-round draft pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
He finished his career as an inaugural member of the All-Big Ten team, earning first-team honors on the strength of eight goals and 25 points. Both of which led all Badger defensemen in the 2013-14 season and ranked him second in points among B1G defensemen.
Playing 100 games in his three-year career, McCabe ended his stint in Madison with 14 goals, 58 points, 115 penalty minutes, seven power-play tallies, one short-handed score and four game-winning goals.
Wisconsin was hoping McCabe would become their captain next season, which would’ve been his senior year. Throughout the season McCabe appeared to be drawn by the opportunity to wear the red “C” on his chest, but the lure of the NHL was too strong.
McCabe had been uncommittal about his future plans following last weekends loss to North Dakota in the opening round of the NCAA West Regional, according to Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal.
“All I’ve told them this whole time is we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said McCabe.
That bridge was crossed quickly, and with the Sabers calling him up to the main NHL roster right away, it likely sealed the deal.
Wisconsin’s roster not only loses nine seniors from this team, but now loses McCabe and faces the prospect of a hard decision by sophomore Nic Kerdiles, who was also a 2nd round NHL Entry Draft pick.
The good news is that according to Baggot’s article both junior goaltender Joel Rumpel (undrafted free agent) and center Joseph LaBate (4th round pick of Vancouver) have committed to returning to Madison.
Having two-thirds of your spine on the starting lineup being seniors is about as good a scenario possible given McCabe’s departure.