Early 2012-13 Hobey Baker Award Big Board
Steve Fetch on Mon, 2012-07-23 14:43
Last year Minnesota-Duluth Senior Jack Connolly became the fifth Bulldog to win the Hobey Baker Award, rising above a group of very talented hockey players. Although he did not run away with the award, the fact that there were a number of worthy potential winners means only good things for the talent level in college hockey.
This year is no different: there are a few players who first come to mind when thinking of potential Hobey winners, but no one favorite. But even though there is no favorite, there still needs to be a Big Board. Here is the first look at the leading contenders for college hockey's player of the year, the Hobey Baker Award:
(note: these are in a rough order, but there is very little separation among all of the players)
1. Nick Bjugstad, Junior Forward, Minnesota
Bjugstad took his time determining whether he would return to Bloomington or sign with the Panthers, and Gophers fans were a little bit more willing to forgive him after he said he'd be back. The Junior possesses all of the tools to be an elite hockey player: good size, strength, speed and an underappreciated work ethic (though to be fair it's easy to not appreciate that when talking about a player as talented as Bjugstad is.) The production has been there as well, as he scored 25 goals in 40 games for Minnesota, rankng 8th nationally in goals per game. I don't expect him to best the mark this year, mostly thanks to a fairly high shooting percentage in the first half of the year, which led to an understandable decline in the second half. That's not to suggest Bjugstad's success was a fluke (he is #1 on this list after all) but don't be penciling him in for 30 goals just yet.
2. TJ Tynan, Junior Forward, Notre Dame
Notre Dame disappointed last year, missing the NCAA tournament despite being a preseason favorite to win it all. But Tynan, a 3rd round pick of Columbus in the 2011 Draft, was excellent again. He led the CCHA in assists and shared the conference lead in points per game in CCHA play. Tynan is one of the best skaters in college hockey, and while his size is a question in terms of pro development, his passing, playmaking ability and hockey sense make him one of the most exciting players to watch in college hockey.
3. Parker Milner, Senior Goalie, Boston College
It is notoriously tough to pick which goalies will have good seasons before the year even begins, but Milner is a good place to start. In sporadic playing time he struggled his first two years at BC, but last year it all came together as he finished second in the nation in save percentage and was MVP of the Frozen Four, allowing only two goals in BC's four NCAA tournament games.
4. Mark Zengerle, Junior Forward, Wisconsin
Wisconsin struggled last season, finishing 10th in the WCHA, but Zengerle was fantastic. Zengerle scored 13 goals and had 50 points as a Sophomore, up from 5 and 36 in his Freshman campaign. Despite some pro interest in the undrafted free agent, Zengerle is back in Madison for another year, which is sure to make Badger fans very happy. Zengerle is a bit of a Tynan lite, with good skating and playmaking ability, but he also has a lot of grit in his game as well, especially for someone standing just 5'11" and weighing 180 pounds. He'll have to contend with seeing the best the other team has to offer every night, but he should be up to the task and right in the thick of the Hobey chase.
5. Danny Kristo, Senior Forward, North Dakota
Kristo surprised some fans in Grand Forks when he announced he'd be back for his Senior year, as the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native has about as complete of a game as you will find in college hockey. He ranked second on North Dakota in both goals and points last year, but he improved his play in his own zone as well and was one of the team's most effective penalty killers. He flashes top end skating ability and is one of the best accelerators in college hockey. He's improved his passing skills as well, but playing alongside Corban Knight his role will no doubt be to put the puck in the back of the net.
6. Tony Grosenick, Junior Goalie, Union
Grosenick was third nationally in save percentage and second in GAA, and like the other goalie on this list he led his team to the Frozen Four. Union lost some key contributors but they should again be in the mix for a Frozen Four berth. If they are to make it however, Grosenick will have to be as good as he was last year, which would all but ensure he would be one of the favorites to take home the award.
7. Johnny Gaudreau, Sophomore Forward, Boston College
Gaudreau had 21 goals as a Freshman for the Eagles, and did it from the beginning of the year, when he had 7 points in the team's first 5 games, so the end of the year when he scored one of the best goals in the history of the Frozen Four. He has great quickness, a great shot and should lead one of the best teams in the country this year in goals, which will boost his stock even more.
8. Joey LaLeggia, Sophomore Defenseman, Denver
Although a lot of his points were second assists (stick tap to Ryan Lambert for that one) LaLeggia still posted an 11-27--38 line for the Pioneers, and had similar BCHL numbers to Justin Schultz, who was a Hobey candidate last year and highly sought free agent this summer. LaLeggia isn't as good of a pro prospect, drafted just 123rd overall by Edmonton this year, and a lot of that is due to his defensive zone skills needing some work. But he moves the puck extremely well, has great vision and an underrated shot. His instincts and hockey sense should let him pile up the points again this year and plant him firmly in the Hobey conversation.
9. Danny Biega, Senior Defenseman, Harvard
If the Hobey were awarded to the player who means the most to his team, Biega would win hands down. The Senior is their best defender, and despite being on the blueline is their best offensive player as well. He had 10 goals in 34 games last year and scored over a point per game for the Crimson. He had 30 points as a Sophomore as well, giving him name recognition with the Hobey voters. If Harvard builds on their third place finish in ECAC Hockey last year, even more people will learn about one of the most underrated players in the country.
10. Brett Gensler, Junior Forward, Bentley
Stick tap to INCH on this one, as they note that Atlantic Hockey has had a Hobey finalist in five of the last six seasons. Gensler led the league in goals and assists last season, with 23 and 27 respectively, and ranking 13th nationally in points per game and 15th in goals per game he could become more than just the de facto Atlantic Hockey candidate with even a little improvement.
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