2009-10: Jake McCabe joined the USA National Team Development Program after skating for Wisconsin’s Eau Claire Memorial High School in 2008-09. He made one appearance with the U18 team and skated in all 52 games for the U17 squad. He was scoreless with 2 penalty minutes in his only U18 game and had 8 assists with 52 penalty minutes in U17 play. He had 1 assist in six games as the USA won gold at the 2010 U17 World Hockey Challenge. McCabe committed to playing college hockey at Wisconsin in 2011-12.
2010-11: McCabe returned to Ann Arbor for his second season with the USA NTDP. In 46 games with the U18 squad he had 4 goals with 12 assists and 14 penalty minutes. He had 1 assist and was plus-one in six games at the 2011 U18 World Junior Championship as the USA won the tournament for the third straight year.
2011-12: McCabe played 26 games as a freshman for Wisconsin – missing ten games early in the season after suffering a hand injury. Playing on a veteran Badger defense corps that included NHL prospects John Ramage and Justin Schultz, he scored 3 goals with 6 assists and had 12 penalty minutes. Wisconsin struggled for much of the season before winning four of its final five games; finishing 10th in the 12-team WCHA. In the WCHA playoffs the Badgers split the first two games with third-place Denver before losing the decisive third game of their first-round series in overtime. McCabe was invited to the NHL Draft Combine and ranked 47th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.
2012-13: McCabe emerged as one of Wisconsin’s top defensemen in his sophomore season after winning a gold medal with the USA squad at the 2013 World Junior Championship. Skating alongside junior Frankie Simonelli on the Badgers’ top pairing, he led Wisconsin defensemen in points with 3 goals and 18 assists in 38 games and was +14 with 50 penalty minutes. The Badgers finished tied for fourth in the WCHA and earned an NCAA bid after capturing the WCHA Broadmoor Trophy; defeating Colorado College, 3-2 in the championship game. Wisconsin lost to Massachusetts-Lowell, 6-1, in the NCAA Northeast Regional tournament. McCabe scored 3 goals with 3 assists and was +9 with 16 penalty minutes in six games for the USA at the WJC. The United States defeated Sweden, 3-1, in the gold medal game.
2013-14: McCabe signed a three-year entry-level contract with Buffalo in April 2014 following his junior season at Wisconsin and made his NHL debut with the Sabres in a game at St. Louis on April 3rd. He finished the year playing for the USA in the 2014 World Championship. McCabe had 1 assist and was -3 with 15 penalty minutes, averaging 15 minutes of ice time in seven games with the Sabres. He scored 8 goals with 17 assists and was -6 with 53 penalty minutes in 36 games for Wisconsin. The Badgers earned an NCAA Tournament berth, defeating Ohio State, 5-4 in overtime, in the championship game of the inaugural Big Ten tournament after finishing second in the regular season. Wisconsin lost 5-2 to North Dakota in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals. McCabe was -2 with no points and 2 penalty minutes, averaging 10:26 of ice time in eight games for Team USA. The USA finished sixth, falling to the Czech Republic, 4-3, in the quarterfinals.
2014-15: McCabe played two games with Buffalo during a February call-up, spending most of his first pro season with Sabres’ AHL affiliate Rochester. He had no points nor penalties, averaging 11 minutes of ice time in his brief stint with Buffalo. McCabe was the second-leading scorer amongst defensemen for Rochester.
McCabe thinks the game remarkably well for a young player. He has excellent vision and anticipates/follows the play quite well. While his decision-making does need to improve, it should come with development and maturity. What makes McCabe so effective in defensive situations are his stick work and grit. McCabe is a strong skater who has good agility and moves well both north-south and laterally.
McCabe looked like he might crack the Buffalo lineup in 2014-15 but suffered an injury during the preseason. Instead, he had an outstanding season in the AHL, sharing the team’s Rookie of the Year award with Andrey Makarov. He will get a chance to crack the Sabres lineup in the fall, but will likely remain in Rochester for another season to fine tune his game. He is not very far away from being a contributor in the NHL and possesses top-four potential.