MADISON, Wis. — Like many others, Mike Eaves is waiting to hear a decision from Ryan Suter on whether the prized recruit will play for Wisconsin next season or jump to the pros.
But that’s not the only pressing issue for the Badgers coach this offseason. Mike Brodeur, slated to figure into the team’s goaltending scene as a freshman next season, may never get that chance because he played in a major junior exhibition two years ago.
At best, Eaves can hope he’ll have Brodeur for the second game of the 2004-05 season — the NCAA penalty for major junior involvement is a year and a game. The worst-case scenario for the Badgers, pending an ongoing appeal, is that Brodeur never gets to play college hockey.
Brodeur, 20, was the only goaltender in Wisconsin’s recruiting class, leaving a gap in the net. Bernd Bruckler will be a junior in the fall, and the only other goalie listed on the Badgers’ roster is walk-on Luke Kohtala. Eaves said the Badgers are looking for a goaltender, but the clock is ticking.
“We’ve got Bruckler in the nets,” he said, “and we’ve got to find the right fit for us.”
Brodeur, whose NCAA penalty stems from 20 minutes played in an exhibition game, won the championship of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Camrose Kodiaks last season, when he was 28-16-2 with a 2.64 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He was selected by Chicago in the seventh round of last month’s NHL entry draft.
Meanwhile, Eaves said he expects to know next week the decision from Suter, who was picked seventh overall by Nashville at the draft and is weighing joining the Badgers or turning pro.
Suter, 18 and a Madison native, was the centerpiece of a Badgers recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the country by Red Line Report. The son of former Badgers defenseman Bob Suter and nephew of former NHLer Gary Suter has been the subject of plenty of speculation since the draft — even including talk that the Predators would lure Gary out of retirement to join Ryan.
Eaves said he’s just waiting for a decision.
“Well, they haven’t called, so they’re not asking for any insight,” he said. “The comments that have been in the paper have shown both sides of the coin. Gary has come out and said it’s such a huge step, especially for a defenseman. The biggest step is for a goaltender, from junior or college to pros. The second biggest step is for a defenseman because your mistakes are just magnified because of your position. Gary has come out and said that, but right now with all the hype and the talk of Gary coming back and this and that and the other thing, you just don’t know what’s really going on. We’ll find out next week.”
The Predators have traded one veteran defenseman and may not re-sign two others, but coach Barry Trotz told The Tennessean of Nashville that didn’t necessarily mean they would pursue signing Suter any harder.
“Right now, I think we’re looking at Ryan going to Wisconsin and developing there,” Trotz told the newspaper.