By Elliot Olshansky
Hello, all, and welcome back to another week of the USCHO Hobey Watch, where it might be fair to ask, just what are we watching, anyway?
Earlier this week, Brian Costello of The Hockey News pointed out the thought that we’re going to be dancing around for the foreseeable future: That, in Costello’s words, Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau is “too good not to win” the Hobey Baker Award.
We’ll spend our fair share of time discussing the young man they call “Johnny Hockey,” to be sure, and whether he will be the first BC forward in the Jerry York era to win the Hobey (David Emma was, of course, the first BC forward to capture the award, having done so in 1991, three years before York returned to his alma mater). What really caught my attention, though, was that Costello saved me the trouble of going through the voting tallies on the Hobey Baker fan voting site and organizing it into a top 10.
Of course, we know what the Hobey fan vote is at this point. Sure, it’s a feature of the award that carries limited validity and even less impact, but it’s fun for the fans — I’m still a fan of the 2006 “Danny King for Hobey” campaign, even though it would be impossible today — and it’s also a good way to see what players may merit a closer look.
So, let’s start by examining that top 10, current as of this past Tuesday.
1. Ryan Faragher, junior, G, St. Cloud State
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, junior, D, Union
3. Ben Hutton, sophomore, D, Maine
4. Johnny Gaudreau, junior, F, Boston College
5. Adam Wilcox, sophomore, G, Minnesota
6. Ross Mauermann, junior, F, Providence
7. Ryan Haggerty, junior, F, Rensselaer
8. Michael Mersch, senior, F, Wisconsin
9. Trevor van Riemsdyk, junior, D, New Hampshire
10. Dillon Simpson, senior, D, North Dakota
Gaudreau we know about, of course, and as long as his production continues at or near its current level, it’s hard to see anyone else leaving Philadelphia with the Hobey. We also discussed Gostisbehere last week, and it’s not much of a surprise that he should be here (except that Union fans have been more united behind Gostisbehere than Cornell’s celebrated Lynah Faithful have been behind an equally qualified contender in Joakim Ryan). Beyond that, though, there are a couple of interesting notes.
Let’s start with the two goaltenders, Faragher and Wilcox. Both play for top-five teams in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, and neither has a real superstar forward up front who’s attracting much Hobey attention, although I could see the Huskies’ Jonny Brodzinski making his case.
If you figure that someone from a team performing as well as Minnesota or St. Cloud State is going to get a nod, it makes sense to look to a goaltender, and Wilcox, who ranks 12th in the nation in both GAA (2.05) and save percentage (.929), certainly has a solid case.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t say the same for Faragher, with his 2.45 GAA (36th in the nation) or his .909 save percentage (52nd), but you never know. As tough as it has been for a goalie to win the Hobey, not all of the netminders who have earned finalist nods have had eye-popping numbers.
Meanwhile, among the defensemen, van Riemsdyk and Hutton are both posting outstanding numbers, ranking fifth and sixth in the nation, respectively, in blueliner scoring. The problem, however, comes from the fact that both New Hampshire and Maine are on the outside looking in where the NCAA tournament is concerned, which could give a leg up to fellow rearguards Ryan and Gostisbehere, not to mention the fact that they play in the same conference as the presumed Hobey frontrunner Gaudreau.
Simpson, meanwhile, suffers from two problems. First, there’s the matter of numbers, as 2009 Hobey winner Matt Gilroy seems to be the exception to the rule when it comes to defensemen winning the Hobey without eye-popping numbers. Then, there’s the question of where North Dakota winds up within the NCHC and in terms of the NCAA tournament. Dave Hakstol has traditionally had a second-half team in Grand Forks, so if UND comes on strong again and Simpson plays a major role, then I’d look at him as a potential finalist.
Finally, we turn to the forwards. Mauermann is an intriguing potential finalist as the leading scorer for No. 7 Providence, and certainly someone to keep an eye on.
Haggerty is having a heck of a season for RPI, but with the Engineers having a mediocre season, I doubt there’s much room for him to go beyond the finalist level, and I see something of an “either-or” situation developing with Haggerty and conference foe Greg Carey of St. Lawrence. That may not be fair, but knowing who else is out there, I just don’t see more than one player from a non-contending ECAC Hockey team making it into the top 10.
It’s an interesting point in the Hobey race … or at least, the Hobey finalist race. While Gaudreau may be leading the field by a wide margin — and I remain convinced that he is — the question of who fits into those top 10 spots becomes more and more interesting. We’ll look at it from another angle next week in the Hobey Watch. Until then, enjoy your weekend — and Beanpot Monday — hockey, everyone!