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Picking the top 20 NCAA men's hockey teams ahead of the start of an unusual season

Picking the top 20 NCAA men's hockey teams ahead of the start of an unusual season

From the Catch up on what you might have missed in the Badgers men's hockey 2020 offseason series

The first national rankings of the NCAA men's hockey season are out, and the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team has work to do to impress the voters.

For the fourth time in six years, the Badgers are unranked in the preseason top 20 released Monday. They were as high as sixth in the rankings last season before stumbling to a 14-20-2 finish.

North Dakota held the No. 1 spot to start what will be an unusual 2020-21 season, with five Big Ten Conference teams in the rankings: Penn State (ninth), Ohio State (10th), Michigan (12th), Minnesota (14th) and Notre Dame (20th). Arizona State, which will play four games against each of the Big Ten teams this season, was No. 15.

There's always a tendency for the preseason poll to be more reflective than predictive. No one knows for sure what new pieces are going to add to rosters or how deeply player departures are going to be felt.

For me, the last ballot I submitted last March was the base, with some adjustments for my best guess on how changed rosters will impact the teams. It's all an educated guess anyway, right? Maybe even more so in a season when the schedule might be a rough estimate because of COVID-19.

Here's how I voted in the preseason poll and why:

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