Sam Stange made it through all seven rounds of the 2019 NHL draft without getting a call congratulating him on being picked.
In 2020, with a year of exposure in the United States Hockey League behind him, the University of Wisconsin freshman forward had a better outcome and a four-time Stanley Cup winner at the other end of the line.
The Detroit Red Wings selected Stange in the fourth round of the draft on Wednesday. He was the 97th overall pick.
"I think it helped a little bit last year going through it," Stange said. "I wasn't there last year either so it was sort of similar for me at least. I guess it taught me last year that I didn't really know what to expect so I went into it without any expectations and did my best not to worry about it. So I just went about my day."
At a break in Wednesday's practice, Badgers coach Tony Granato handed Stange a cellphone. Red Wings director of amateur scouting Kris Draper was on the other line.
Stange didn't hear much of it because of his teammates' exuberance but he said Draper offered congratulations and a welcome to the Red Wings.
Stange said he didn't have a favorite NHL team growing up.
"I guess they kind of became my team today," Stange said of the Red Wings. "I think it's really cool to be picked by an Original Six team, a team with the history like that is pretty cool. The fans are going be awesome there. It definitely doesn't hurt also that I'll be staying in red and white. That's another cool aspect of it."
His selection made it 23 straight years that the Badgers have had a player picked on the second day of the draft. Sophomore forward Dylan Holloway was the No. 14 overall pick in the first round on Tuesday by the Edmonton Oilers.
Stange conceded last year that choosing to finish his senior year of high school at Eau Claire North instead of playing junior hockey might have cost him in the draft.
In 2019, he was ranked 112th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. This year, he was two spots higher.
Stange tied for fifth in the USHL with 26 goals last season, most of which he spent with the Sioux City Musketeers. He was part of a trade to the Sioux Falls Stampede shortly before the rest of the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He's the first Badgers player picked by Detroit since defenseman Brendan Smith in the first round in 2007.
Two former Badgers players were involved in draft-day moves Wednesday.
Luke Kunin, the UW captain and leading scorer in 2016-17, was traded to the Nashville Predators by the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Nick Bonino. Kunin, a restricted free agent this offseason, had 31 points in 63 regular-season games in 2019-20.
As it gained one former Badgers player, Nashville parted with another. Forward Kyle Turris was put on waivers to buy out the final four years of his contract.
The Predators also had Madison native and former UW forward Craig Smith for the last nine seasons but he's an unrestricted free agent that Nashville doesn't intend to re-sign.
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