Let's address the most-frequently-asked question of the offseason early.

Yes, Cole Caufield was on the ice Friday when the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team returned for its final series of practices before its trip to Vancouver next week.

Same with fellow first-round NHL draft pick Alex Turcotte. Same with 2020 first-round prospect Dylan Holloway.

With the required notice that anything can change at any time, there have been no indications of any deviations from the plans that have the trio playing for the Badgers this season.

They were among 25 current Badgers players and two alumni skating at the Kohl Center as UW started its final string of practices before it leaves on a foreign trip to play exhibitions against the University of British Columbia on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

Turcotte was the fifth overall pick in the draft by the Los Angeles Kings. Caufield was No. 15 by the Montreal Canadiens. Holloway is expected to be in that same range next year, and the Alberta native has shunned offers to play Canadian major juniors.

Former Badgers forwards Craig Smith of the Nashville Predators and Ben Street, who signed this offseason with the New Jersey Devils, skated with the team Friday. Both are among a group of pro players who work out in Madison in the offseason.

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UW forwards Jason and Sean Dhooghe were out Friday and are due to miss Saturday's practice because of a family vacation that was scheduled before the team planned the Vancouver trip. UW coach Tony Granato said he didn't want the brothers to change their itineraries. They'll be on the ice for practices Monday and Tuesday before the team leaves for Vancouver on Wednesday.

The Badgers had no injury limitations as they hit the ice Friday, which is a good way to start a season. And even though the first official day of practice is Oct. 5, Friday could be considered the true beginning.

When the Badgers return from the Vancouver trip, they'll move into the start of the academic year. With that, they can practice with coaches for four hours per week until the season starts. So the unbroken run-up to the regular season is underway.

"Whether you're a coach or a player, you want the season to get going. So this is the kickoff to the year," Granato said Friday. "The summer stuff and training and workouts are all great. But this is kind of the start of the season."

Like with the first six of 10 allowed practices before a foreign trip, there was little to be gleaned Friday in the way of forward line combinations. UW is planning to shuffle things around up to — and probably through — the Vancouver games to get a look at what might work.

One thing to watch leading up to the Oct. 11 opener at Boston College is how the Badgers coaches decide who'll play center. They have a lot of options to choose from, and it appeared that eight took turns on Friday: Turcotte, Holloway, Tarek Baker, Mick Messner, Ty Pelton-Byce, Dominick Mersch, Owen Lindmark and Brock Caufield.


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