Hobey Baker Watch: Week 17
As the regular season comes to a close, the finalists for the 2017 Hobey Baker Award have been announced. While the winner will be announced on April 7 in Chicago, it is not too early to take a look at who has the best chance to take home the honor. With all six conferences represented, here are the ten finalists for the 2016-17 season.
Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern: The senior forward has put together a fantastic season, on his way to being tied for the national lead in points (31-32--63). Aston-Reese has been phenomenal on his way to leading the Huskies this season. Northeastern’s season has come to an end, as the Huskies were knocked out of the Hockey East tournament by BU, and did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. A large part of why Northeastern finished the regular season 22nd in the PairWise can be largely credited to Aston-Reese’s outstanding performance this season. He remains a top contender for the Hobey.
Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State: One of only two goaltenders on the list, the junior has been a fantastic story to watch all year, even at a relatively unknown school like Bemidji State. Bitzer (1.71, .932) leads the country in GAA and is fourth in save percentage. His name has been in the conversation all season as one of the top statistical goalies in the country. Bitzer continued to impress throughout the season even as his team struggled, missing the NCAA Tournament this year. He could definitely get some consideration when the voting comes.
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame: The junior forward has been crucial to Notre Dame’s success this year. A 19-28--47 stat line has been a large part of the reason why the Fighting Irish find themselves in the tournament field. The Irish were knocked out of the Hockey East tournament by UMass-Lowell, but will play Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament. Bjork has put together a great season, but he finds himself on the outside looking in for the Hobey.
Will Butcher, Denver: The senior defenseman has been tremendous for Denver, as the Pioneers find themselves at No. 1 in the PairWise. Butcher (6-29--35) has been sensational on both ends of the ice, sporting a +23 rating, among the top ten in the nation. Butcher’s season will continue in the NCAA’s, as Denver takes on Michigan Tech in their regional semifinal.
Spencer Foo, Union: The junior forward has put together fantastic numbers, as the pair of Foo and Vecchione have led the Dutchmen this year. Foo (24-36--60) is an instrumental reason for why Union is eighth in the latest PairWise rankings, although they were eliminated from the ECAC Tournament by Cornell. The Dutchmen advanced to the NCAA Tournament and will take on Penn State in their regional semifinal. Foo has been a name to watch all year, and he sits fourth nationally in points.
Tyler Kelleher, New Hampshire: The senior forward has been among the national leaders in points all year and his play has kept the Wildcats relevant all year. Kelleher (24-39--63) has remained in the national point leader conversation since January and remains a strong contender for the award. UNH was knocked out of the Hockey East tournament by UMass-Lowell, and their season is over as they did not qualify for the tournament. With that being said, there is no denying the impact Kelleher has had this year.
Alexander Kerfoot, Harvard: One of the more surprising names on the list, Kerfoot (16-24--40) has played pretty solid all year for the Crimson, who won the ECAC Tournament last week. The Crimson are a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and will play Providence in their first game. The senior forward has been a key cog for Harvard, but statistically is one of the more underwhelming candidates. A +20 rating for Kerfoot shows his strength as a two-way player, but he looks like a long-shot to win the Hobey.
Tyler Sheehy, Minnesota: The sophomore forward represents the youngest player on the list this year, which is surprising when one considers the freshmen that have won the award in recent years. Sheehy (20-32--52) has managed to play his way into the conversation, heating up over the second half of the season. He is a crucial reason as to why Minnesota is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, as they open play against No. 4 Notre Dame this weekend. Sheehy probably won’t win, but he is a player to watch in the next couple years.
Mike Vecchione, Union: The senior forward has been incredible all year long, and remains one of the favorites to win the award. Vecchione (29-33--62) has put together highlight-reel goals all season and has helped play the Dutchmen into an NCAA tournament berth, where they will take on Penn State. It would be hard to find a better way to cap off a sensational career like Vecchione’s than a Hobey Baker award.
Charles Williams, Canisius: The other goalie on this list, Williams (1.82, .943) has played incredibly strong in the second half of the year. While Canisius did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, the play of Williams has gained enough attention to lead many to at least consider Williams for the Hobey. The senior goaltender has stymied opponents this season, leading the country in save percentage, and could certainly get votes when the time comes.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.