MADISON (Press Release) – With the start of the NHL playoffs on Wednesday, 11 of the 20 former Wisconsin players to play in the pros this season will begin their pursuit of the coveted Stanley Cup trophy. Last season Adam Burish and the Chicago Blackhawks brought the Badger family their 19th Stanley Cup victory. This season, Wisconsin will boast the highest number of former players of all collegiate teams in the playoffs.
Joe Pavelski and Danny Heatley were catalysts this season in leading San Jose to the Pacific Division title, the number two seed in the Western Conference, and a matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. Pavelski scored 20 goals and added 46 points to total 66 points, while Heatley scored 26 times and posted 38 assists for 64 points. Their first round matchup will feature the duo against former Badger defenseman Davis Drewiske.
Three members of last season's national champion runner-up squad will make their playoff debuts in their rookie season. Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers will face off against the top-seed Washington Capitals. Stepan had an impressive rookie campaign, as his 21 goals and 45 points were fifth among all NHL rookie skaters. McDonagh scored his first career goal in the Rangers' final regular season game, and it was the game-winner to help New York secure the final playoff spot in the East.
Last year's Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion will skate alongside former Badger Ryan Suter as the Nashville Predators face the Anaheim Ducks and former Badger Brad Winchester, who Anaheim acquired at the trade deadline this season. Geoffrion tallied six goals in 20 regular season games.
Two Badgers of different generations will face off out west. Thirty-seven year old defenseman Brian Rafalski and the Detroit Red Wings have a first round matchup against 21-year old Kyle Turris and the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Chicago Blackhawks secured the final seed in the west and will face the Vancouver Canucks. Eau Claire, Wis., native and former Badger Jake Dowell will lead them in their defense of last season's title.
Brian Fahey made his NHL debut this season for the Washington Capitals, who secured the top spot in the East. Fahey, who skated in seven games this season, is currently playing in the AHL playoffs for the Hershey Bears and is not expected to make the playoff roster.