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Trent Frederic photo (copy)

Trent Frederic led the Badgers with 17 goals in his sophomore season.

Tony Granato is sure that Trent Frederic could play in the NHL next season.

Whether he will is up to the Boston Bruins now that the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team's leading goal-scorer has signed his first pro contract.

The Bruins announced Tuesday that they had signed Frederic, a first-round draft pick in 2016 who will leave the Badgers after two seasons.

He'll play the rest of this season with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island, before his three-year, entry-level contract kicks in for training camp next season.

At that point, Frederic hopes he's ready to make a run at staying with the big club, but Granato, the Badgers' coach, said some of that will be out of his hands.

Like with Luke Kunin, who signed with the NHL's Minnesota Wild after his sophomore season with the Badgers last year, Frederic could spend time in the minors to get more quality minutes before a call-up to the big show.

"Trent Frederic is 100 percent an NHL player. No question in my mind," Granato said. "Does Boston want him to play in Providence for the remainder of this year and 40 games next year, similar to what Minnesota just did with Luke? Only they know that plan, and that plan changes fast."

The signing wasn't unexpected; first-round draft picks rarely spend more than two seasons in college before being signed. Just three of 17 NCAA players drafted in the opening round between 2010 and 2015 made it to a third year in college.

Frederic, 20, had 17 goals and 32 points in 36 games for the Badgers this season and was named an honorable mention all-Big Ten Conference performer on Tuesday.

He said it was a hard decision to leave UW but coaches and teammates were good about it.

His time with the Badgers included a Big Ten freshman of the year award in 2016-17 after a 15-goal season as the Badgers rebounded from two down seasons to come within one victory of the league playoff championship.

But he struggled to meet his standards at times as the focal point of the team's offense in 2017-18, twice going four games without a point. The team also slumped to a 14-19-4 finish and a first-round Big Ten playoff exit.

"I wish I would have won some more games and left a bigger mark on the program," Frederic said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to come back. It was really hard to leave.

"But I just thought in my heart, that's where I wanted to go. I want to make the National Hockey League, and I thought this was the best opportunity for me."

Frederic won a bronze medal with the United States at the World Junior Championship in January, breaking out of a limited-playing-time role to score four goals in his final game.

His departure means 42 percent of the Badgers' goal scoring from this season won't be back in 2018-19 through graduation or pro signing.

UW has three forwards signed for next season: NHL draft candidate Sampo Ranta, Dominick Mersch and Madison native Mick Messner. Granato said the Badgers will add at least one more player to the incoming class.

As it was with Kunin this season, it'll be difficult for the Badgers to replace the versatility that Frederic brought.

"Does it leave a void at center ice for us temporarily? Absolutely," Granato said. "You take Trent Frederic out of your lineup, a guy that probably could have got 25 or 30 goals in college hockey next year, you don't just all of a sudden find another one in your backyard."

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Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.