Hobey Baker Watch: Week 13
The voting in the Hobey Baker race has begun, and the 66 players who have been nominated for the award are spread across each conference. Hockey East leads with 22 players up for the nod, while Atlantic Hockey has 5, the Big Ten has 10 and the ECAC has 12. Finally, there are 12 in the NCHC and 4 in the WCHA. Who in each conference has the best shot at taking home the top individual prize in college hockey? Let’s take a look...
In Atlantic Hockey, the name to watch is Brady Ferguson (Robert Morris). With 42 points, he has moved into a fifth-place tie in the nation in scoring. At 34 pts, teammate Daniel Leavens isn’t out of the race either, sitting just outside the top 10. The other nominees from the AHA include Max French (Bentley) and T.J. Moore (Holy Cross). Goalies up for the award include Parker Gahagen (Army) and Charles Williams (Canisius). Williams leads the country in save percentage at .945, and Gahagen ranks among the top five in goals against average at 1.84.
The Big Ten has some names to watch down the stretch of the season as well. The notable ones include Denis Smirnov (Penn State) and Tyler Sheehy (Minnesota). Sheehy sits 12th nationally in scoring at 33 points, while Smirnov is tied for 18th with 29. Other nominees included names like Peyton Jones (PSU), Nick Schilkey (Ohio State), and Andrew Sturtz (PSU). Smirnov and Sheehy remain long-shots at the award, but there is plenty of hockey left.
Speaking of Penn State nominees, it will be interesting to see how they shake up in the voting. Currently, Smirnov represents the best chance of Penn State taking home it’s first Hobey Baker Award. The freshman currently sits at 29 points, while his teammate Andrew Sturtz is tied for the conference lead in goals, but sits pretty far back in points. Peyton Jones carries the second-best GAA in the conference at 2.45 but is fourth at save percentage at .905. The trio, while long-shots, are still eligible to be voted on for the award by fans.
For the ECAC, some of their nominees have legit chances to take home the honor, namely players like Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo (Union). Vecchione sits tied for the national lead at 44 points, while Foo is in a third-place tie right behind his teammate at 43. For goalies, nominee Kyle Hayton (St. Lawrence) leads the way with a .934 save percentage that is sixth in the country. While there are 12 ECAC nominees, these three have legitimate shots to win.
In Hockey East, a ridiculous 22 players were nominated for college hockey’s top honor, but only a few have legitimate chances at taking home the award. Notably, Dylan Sikura at 44 points (Northeastern) and Tyler Kelleher at 43 (UNH) are tied at first and third in the country for scoring respectively. Zach Aston-Reese (Northeastern) sits tied at fifth with 42, only two points off the national lead. While the best goalie statistically in the conference, Jake Oettinger of BU was left off the Hobey ballot, arguably robbing the goalie of a shot at the award. Overall, the trio of Sikura, Kelleher, and Aston-Reese represent Hockey East’s best shot at the Hobey.
The NCHC has a couple of names that could press for the award down the stretch as well. Austin Ortega (Nebraska-Omaha) is ninth nationally with 36 points and Shane Gersich (North Dakota) is tied for 13th at 32. Surprisingly, there were no goaltenders nominated for the award from the conference. With that being said, the aforementioned Ortega and Gersich are about the only shots that the NCHC will have at taking the Hobey home.
And in the WCHA, only four nominees were named. Both Michael Bitzer (Bemidji State) and Angus Redmond (Michigan Tech) have put forth incredible seasons in net for their respective teams and have put forth their names in the Hobey conversation. Beyond them, there aren’t any forwards putting a compelling case for the award. These two are the best shot at a WCHA player taking home the honor.
The stretch of the season should be interesting in determining who the best player in college hockey is. The race is wide open and has plenty of nominees with compelling cases, so it will be interesting to see who steps up and who fades out down the stretch.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. Reach him via email at email@example.com.