Fan voting for the Hobey Baker Award begins today, and as has been a theme for the past couple of seasons, there are a lot of players who are in the running for the award, but it has narrowed to a handful of candidates. The following list is my list of the top five candidates for the award, in the order in which I think they deserve it, not how I think the award voting would look if it were done today.
1. Johnny Gaudreau, F, Boston College
Gaudreau had one of the best WJC tournaments ever for an American forward, leading the tournament with 7 goals. He also, despite missing a few games due to the aforementioned WJC, is just one behind the national leaders in goals scored in college hockey this year. Because he has missed those games, he leads the nation in goals per game with .79. Gaudreau’s best assets are his ability with the puck and his hockey sense, and both have been on display this season.
2. Corban Knight, F, North Dakota
After being overshadowed for the past couple of seasons, Knight has dominated this year. He has 10 goals and is third in the nation in points per game. He currently has a 15 game point streak, and he’s getting it done elsewhere on the ice as well: he’s one of the best face off men in the country, winning 60.2% of his draws, which is on pace to break his own school record.
3. Ryan Walters, F, Nebraska-Omaha
I don’t look at win-loss record when filling out Hobey rankings, but it’s tough not to notice that Omaha is currently in first place in the WCHA. Walters has been a big part of that, leading the country with 13 goals (though it has taken him 22 games, putting him off the pace in terms of goals per game). He’s uh drafted, but has an outside shot at doubling his career high for goals in a season and has Omaha playing some of their best hockey since Dean Blais got there.
4. Joey LaLeggia, D, Denver
There isn’t a standout defender this year, but LaLeggia has been impressive again coming off a standout freshman season. He should approach the 38 points he had last year, and with 7 goals already this year it seems to be a lock that he will top the 11 goals he had last season.
LaLeggia still has some work to do in terms of his pro prospects because he is pretty undersized for that level, but because of his puck moving and passing skills as well as his skating he’s mastered the college game and is one of the best defensemen in the country.
5. Brett Gensler, F, Bentley
Every year sees someone from outside the big conferences get a Hobey nod, and so far that guy is Gensler. He has scored 11 goals on the year and leads the country scoring 1.71 points per game. Bentley is just 6th in Atlantic Hockey, but if Gensler keeps this up I don’t see how it’s possible to keep the nation’s leading scorer off the ballot, even when considering the level of competition. Especially when considering how much Atlantic Hockey has improved over the past couple of seasons.
Matt Slovin of The Michigan Daily has a pretty earth shattering report tonight that the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL have offered Jacob Trouba and his family $200,000 to break his commitment to Michigan and play for the club next season.
The earth shattering part isn’t that it happened. It is the worst kept secret in amateur hockey that CHL teams do this all the time, with the most famous recent example probably being Kitchener reportedly offering Cam Fowler just under half a million dollars. That of course was the event that prompted the threat of a libel lawsuit from Windsor and Kitchener, one which never came for some strange reason (hint: truth is an absolute defense to libel).
What makes this a pretty monumental event is that there is a sourced report with an actual dollar amount being reported. I can’t say it any more eloquently than Chris Peters of the United States of Hockey when he tweeted “Can’t put the toothpaste in the tube now.”
I don’t see much changing in terms of actual events on the ice. Regardless of what happens to Kitchener (probably nothing, as they have denied any wrongdoing and it goes against the OHL’s interests to say that they did anything wrong) teams across the CHL will still pay for top talent. But it does change the perception a bit. Rather than being the “best development league in the world” more people will realize they are good at buying college bound players and letting the Taylor Hall’s of the world beat the league up before going to the NHL, while college hockey develops hockey players. And, obviously, if you have to bribe players to come play there it doesn’t scream “best development league” to me.
Player of the year – Reilly Smith, Miami
It came down to Smith and Torey Krug, but Smith was incredibly impressive this year. Although he scored a boatload of goals last year there were whispers that it was mostly due to playing on a line with Andy Miele. This year he proved it was no fluke (and that maybe he was the driving force on that line last year) by scoring 18 goals in CCHA play, 5 more than anyone else in the league. Miami was 5th in the league in scoring, so you know just how important Smith was to that team as well.
Coach of the Year – Bob Daniels, Ferris State
Halfway through the year, Ohio State’s Mark Osiecki seemed to have a stranglehold on this award, but after finishing 5th last year Ferris State went on a 13 game unbeaten streak before losing their last game of the season to win the CCHA regular season title. Ferris has been a really balanced team all year, with just two scorers in double figures, and they came virtually out of nowhere to win the league and reach the national title game. Read more…
Player of the year – Austin Smith, Colgate
Smith had 36 goals this year to lead the nation, and they were just 5 fewer than the other two Hobey hat trick finalists combined. Smith scored 25 goals in conference play, 12 more than the next highest total. To contrast, the other leading scorers won their league scoring titles by 5, 3, 2 and 1. Smith also had under 20% of his goals come on the power play and, though I am not a fan of crediting players for context, had an equal number of game winning and game tying goals as he did power play tallies. Smith helped drag a Colgate team picked to finish near the bottom in ECAC Hockey to a fourth place finish in the league, and to top it all off Smith was one of the better forwards in the country at playing in his own end as well.
Coach of the year – Norm Bazin, UMass-Lowell
Bob Daniels was very close, as he helped lead Ferris State all the way to the title game in their first Frozen Four appearance. But Bazin led Lowell to 24 wins and a second place finish in Hockey East after a last place finish and just 5 wins last season. Lowell had seven players who scored 10 or more goals in 2011-12 after having four the year before. Read more…
Full shields have been mandatory in college hockey for roughly 30 years, but now, for the first time since the rule’s inception, there is a real chance that the mandate could be eliminated.
Leading the charge against them are the vast majority of college coaches, most notably BU coach Jack Parker, who has been against it for decades now.
While the publicly offered reason is that they want to protect player safety, there is little doubt in my mind that the real reason is to make players in college hockey the same as every other league, and to provide more of a way to compete with the CHL for the top talent.
While it looks like they will get their way, I have long been opposed to wearing half or 3/4 shields, and still am: Read more…
Seth Jones’s story is a fairly well known one among hockey fans: born to former NBAer Popeye Jones, Seth first picked up hockey while living in Denver, and honed his game playing youth hockey in Texas. The NTDPer has already spent two years with the program, and because he missed the NHL draft cutoff by just over a month he will have to spend his draft year somewhere else.
That place, he announced on twitter, is with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Jones was taken by Everett in the first round of the WHL bantam draft in 2009, but had made it known that had he had the choice between reporting to Everett or playing college hockey, he was going to go to North Dakota. That allowed Everett to trade his rights to Portland, where Jones will spend his draft eligible year.
By all accounts, Jones should do quite well in Portland. He stands about 6’3″ and is a little over 200 pounds with room to get bigger. He skates tremendously well and can play well in his own zone plus has tremendous offensive upside. He’ll battle QMJHL forward Nathan MacKinnon in the race to be the #1 overall pick, and while I’d take MacKinnon because I tend to favor forwards, there’s no doubt that Jones is a potentially elite defenseman, and one of the best American prospects in quite some time.
Though this is a college hockey site, I think he probably made the correct call in choosing Portland. Though he could probably benefit from a college weight program, it probably does him better to go out and dominate young kids in the WHL and play in a ton of games before heading to the NHL than it would for him to struggle with the more physical aspects of college hockey (and I think it’s fair to say that an 18 year old, no matter how talented, would struggle physically playing against men). It’s important to reiterate, though, that Jones would fare well regardless of the path he chose. By all accounts he is as smart and humble and hardworking as he is talented. And his pre-decision actions, personally visiting Everett, Portland and Grand Forks before making his decision, certainly bear that out. This is one of the rare prospects that the college game will be worse off for not getting a chance to experience, but also one of the rare prospects whom you can’t blame for making the decision he did, even as biased as we college fans can be.
In case you missed it, UND announced last week that they would not be renewing the contract of assistant coach Cary Eades. Eades, who played at UND, had been an assistant for Dave Hakstol each year the latter was the head coach at UND and prior to the 2006-07 season was named the school’s associate head coach.
Eades helped UND to 2 WCHA regular season titles, 4 WCHA postseason titles and 5 Frozen Four appearances in his 8 years with Hakstol. In a statement, Hakstol said the reason for the change was “a need to redefine and restructure the roles and duties” within the coaching staff. Eades was the coach of the defensemen and was also the recruiting coordinator.
Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald said that his first thought was perhaps Hakstol wanted a defenseman to coach the defensemen, which makes sense initially, but Eades has done fantastic work with the defensemen in his time at UND. Defensemen of course normally develop later than forwards, and just in the last few years Taylor Chorney, Chay Genoway and Ben Blood have been first team All-Americans. Eades’s work with Genoway was especially impressive, as he went from just another forward to the best defenseman in the country.
As far as recruiting goes, UND has lost some recruits lately to the CHL (and might lose one more in Seth Jones) but recently both Miles Koules and Stefan Matteau’s decisions were based on ice time and Matteau specifically wanted to play for his father. That UND has assembled so much talent that a recruit like Koules isn’t sure that he’d get enough ice time (of course, that’s his reasoning. I’m sure however much money got added to his family’s bank account helped) should hardly be a knock against Eades.
Eades, no doubt, will be fine. He’s already had interest from other jobs and it’s possible there will be a head gig available for him to take, and his contract not being renewed will let him take the job free of any guilt that might arise from feelings that he was abandoning the program. Whatever happens, the next assistant coach will have some big shoes to fill, but as I have said for his entire tenure, Sioux fans should trust in the Hak.