USCHO staff writers discuss this year’s Hobey Baker Award race before Thursday’s announcement of the 10 finalists.
It’s time for us to make our predictions of who we think will be on the list. As always, it’s a difficult task to narrow down the list of potential finalists to just 10, but here are our takes.
In alphabetical order:
Daniel Ciampini, senior forward, Union — He’s been near the top of the goal-scoring list for the entire season, and ended with 26 goals and 24 assists.
Jack Eichel, freshman forward, Boston University — He’s had the best season, and, despite being a rookie, I think he’s going to win the award. He’s certainly a shoo-in to be one of the 10 finalist spots with 61 points so far (20 goals and 41 assists), which is tops in the nation.
Matt Garbowsky, senior forward, RIT — The leading scorer in Atlantic Hockey with 50 points (26 goals and 24 assists), he’s factored in 45 percent of RIT’s goals this season.
Zach Hyman, senior forward, Michigan — He leads the Big Ten in scoring with 49 points so far. He also was nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.
Tanner Kero, senior forward, Michigan Tech — The leading scorer in the WCHA has 19 goals and 25 assists so far.
Joey LaLeggia, senior defenseman, Denver — He’s had a fantastic senior season to cap off a fantastic career. My pick for player of the year in the NCHC.
Alex Lyon, sophomore goaltender, Yale — There are several goalies to choose from who have had great seasons and similar stats: Lyon, Jamie Phillips (Michigan Tech), Jon Gillies (Providence), Stephon Williams (Minnesota State) and rookie Kyle Hayton at St. Lawrence. I’m going with Lyon and …
Jamie Phillips, junior goalie, Michigan Tech — See Alex Lyon.
Mike Reilly, junior defenseman, Minnesota — I’m going with two defensemen in my top 10, and this one was close between Reilly and Notre Dame’s Robbie Russo. Just a gut-feeling pick of one over the other.
Jimmy Vesey, junior forward, Harvard — Right now he’s the leading goal scorer in the nation and coming off a series against Yale where he had both game-winners.
I’ve run out of finalists spots, but if I had 11 I would go with BU senior forward Evan Rodrigues. He’s not going to win, but I think he will be a finalist. I’m just not sure who to kick out.
1. Jack Eichel, Boston University — He’s pretty much a shoo-in not just for the finalist nomination, but the Hobey Hat Trick as well. He leads the country in scoring and has been a huge part of the Terriers’ resurgence.
2. Jimmy Vesey, Harvard — See Eichel above re: Vesey’s importance to the Crimson. He’s third in the country in scoring, and second in points-per-game average. I also think he’s a strong choice for the Hat Trick.
3. Daniel Ciampini, Union — A proven point producer who had a very solid senior year.
4. Zach Hyman, Michigan — He’s already been nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, and I think he adds to a memorable senior season with a Hobey finalist nomination as well.
5. Joey LaLeggia, Denver — I may be biased because I see LaLeggia play a lot, but he’s an electric player who is a producer at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t have as many points as Minnesota’s Mike Reilly, but their points per game figures are almost identical, and I think LaLeggia plays in a tougher conference. He’s also fourth in the NCHC in scoring.
6. Matt Garbowsky, RIT — Possibly the best player in Atlantic Hockey, and tied for fourth in the country in scoring.
7. Austin Czarnik, Miami — Czarnik leads the NCHC in assists, and is sixth overall in that statistic. His senior success has been important to Miami’s ability to regroup from last year’s horrible regular season.
8. Tanner Kero, Michigan Tech — He’s 10th in the country in scoring and was both the WCHA player of the year and student-athlete of the year.
9. Evan Rodrigues, Boston University — He may get overshadowed by Eichel, but he’s a big part of Eichel’s success, and he’s second in the country in scoring. I have a really hard time leaving him off the finalist list; he replaced Minnesota’s Reilly for me.
10. Stephon Williams, Minnesota State — I think that at least one goalie has to make the list. I don’t see Michigan Tech getting two players on the list, and Kero is a lock. Lyon could be the pick instead of Williams, but Williams has a better won-loss record and has been really important to Minnesota State all year. Lyon couldn’t get it done against Harvard in the ECAC playoffs, so I’m going with Williams.
Candace: So let’s debate some of these. We have a few differences: You have Phillips, Reilly and Lyon on the list; I picked Czarnik, Rodrigues and Williams. We agree on the other seven. What do you think the chances are for your three vs. my three?
Chris: I can’t argue with your logic about Phillips and Lyon, and you have seen Williams more than I have. Goalies are always a crap shoot come Hobey time. The bar is set incredibly high for a winner, but I can make a case for two on the list of finalists. Czarnik was another tough call for me, like Rodrigues.
I’m conflicted between picking who will be on the list of 10 finalists and who should be on the list. I think mine is more of a personal preference while yours is probably closer to the way the 59 coaches will vote. We’ll know for sure on Thursday.
Candace: I understand your reasoning for the players you chose differently than me; if I had to pick one player from that troika that will replace one of the three I picked differently, I’d say it’s Reilly from Minnesota.
The hard part when looking over this is that there are so many worthy candidates, and it’s a shame to leave any of the list. North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre was on the initial ballot, and is not only on the current top team in the country, he leads all goalies in wins. Granted, he’s played more games than any other goalie except Ferris State’s CJ Motte, but it’s still an impressive stat.
I’d actually look to Mark MacMillan on North Dakota. He has been injured and will be out the rest of the year, but his points per game is right there with Drake Caggiula and Michael Parks.
We’ve already talked about Reilly, for whom you could make a strong case. Notre Dame’s Russo has also had a great season. On the offensive side, how do you not recognize Union sophomore Mike Vecchione, who has the same amount of points as Ciampini? It’s hard, but again the voters likely will pick only one Union player, and I’d say it’s Ciampini.