Monday, October 3, 2011

The road to Nashville goes through.....Madison?

The Nashville Predators seem to be keeping a sharp eye on the Wisconsin Badger hockey program. Ryan Suter, Blake Geoffrion and Craig Smith all played their college hockey at the University of Wisconsin. Now, the three of them are making an impact with the Predators.

"Wisconsin is a school that guys want to go to. They get the top recruits in the country," said Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.

One of the unique things about playing college hockey at Wisconsin is the atmosphere. The Kohl Center is home to one of the loudest crowds in the country. Jack Hillen, the defenseman acquired by the Predators from the New York Islanders in the offseason, played college hockey at Colorado College. He knows all about playing at the Kohl Center. Colorado College and the University of Wisconsin both play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"The Kohl Center was always one of the best trips. They had great crowds, a great student section and a full building. It's one of the biggest buildings in college hockey,' Hillen said. 'You always kind of got up for those games more because you knew it was going to be such a great atmosphere."

Suter and Smith both grew up in Madison, which is where the University of Wisconsin is located. Both enjoyed their time there, and hold Madison close to their hearts.

"It's a special place, and it will be held in our hearts a long time," Smith said.

Having Geoffrion and Suter in Nashville has helped Smith in his development with the Preds. The connection they share with Wisconsin hockey has made him feel more comfortable in Nashville.

"It's nice to come here and just know guys have been through what you've been through, and have gone through the same change,' Smith said. 'It's nice having Blake here. He's a guy that I know pretty well, so he's kind of taken me under his wing and made me feel more comfortable."

The connection with the Badgers has worked out well for the Predators so far. Suter is one of the top defensive players in the world, Geoffrion already has a hat trick in his young NHL career, and Smith has made the NHL club without playing a game for the Milwaukee Admirals.

"It's great for Wisconsin hockey and it says a lot about Coach Eaves," Geoffrion said.

Whatever Nashville's method is in drafting players from the University of Wisconsin, they might want to continue doing so in the future. Suter certainly finds a sense of pride in the results.

"I don't know what it is. The Predators scouts just have a good eye for some good talent, I guess."

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