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College Hockey:
A feeling I get when I look to the West

It’s always nice to see when a blog post gets people talking, and last week’s Hobey Watch post about goalies certainly did that. Of course, given that some of the chatter consisted of suggestions of “East Coast bias” and questions about the absence of Minnesota netminder Kent Patterson from my list, I was left with a bit more thinking to do as I posted this week.

As far as Patterson is concerned, I actually wrote a feature on him for NCAA.com early in the season, so he’s definitely been on my radar. There’s no question that he’s been a very steady presence for the Gophers this season, and a key factor in what seems to be a likely return to the NCAA tournament. He leads the nation in shutouts and is among the nation’s top 10 goaltenders in goals against average. I think the reason I didn’t include Patterson had something to do with his save percentage, where he ranks 29th in the nation. Given that only two goaltenders have won the Hobey in the last 31 years, I don’t think someone who’s outside the top 10 in either save percentage or GAA has a real shot at the Hobey. Of course, that would knock out Kieran Millan of Boston University, but since it was the BU promotional material about Millan that inspired last week’s blog post, it’d be kind of hard to write the post without him.

That having been said, most of last week’s post did concern Eastern players, which makes it only fair that I go in the other direction this week. So, this week, we’ll focus on the Hobey candidates in the West.

About a month ago, I was fairly certain that Jack Connolly of Minnesota-Duluth was the clear front-runner for the Hobey. He was leading the nation in scoring, the Bulldogs held the top national ranking, and the other top forwards played for teams that were not on track to earn an NCAA tournament berth. Things have changed a fair bit in the last month, although it’s not like Connolly has slowed down all that much. He’s still one of the top scorers in the country with 50 points in 32 games (1.56 PPG), but he’s now second to Spencer Abbott of Maine, whose Black Bears are solidly in the mix for an NCAA tournament berth. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are in a hard-fought battle to a top NCAA tournament seed, and are ranked fourth in the country this week rather than first. All of that having been said, the fact remains that Connolly is the biggest reason why the Bulldogs have a serious chance at repeating as NCAA champions despite heavy offseason losses. Minnesota-Duluth has two other players among the national scoring leaders in J.T. Brown and Travis Oleksuk, but as Hobey candidates from the West go, Connolly still belongs atop the list.

Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz will almost certainly suffer as a Hobey candidate because of the Badgers’ struggles this season, but he’s having a fantastic year and is a very likely Hobey finalist. Not only does Schultz lead all defensemen with 40 points (12-28–40) in 30 games, but he’s also plus-10 on a Wisconsin team that has a negative goal differential this year. Schultz hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since his freshman season, when the Badgers advanced to the NCAA title game against Boston College, and that may hurt his cause slightly, but it’s hard to imagine Schultz not making the top 10.

Denver has a couple of possible Hobey candidates at forward in Jason Zucker and Drew Shore, both of whom are among the national top 10 in scoring average. The question, however, is what separates one from the other as a Hobey candidate. Don’t be surprised if at least one of the two gets a finalist nod.

Another part of the reason that I didn’t give Patterson more of a look as a Hobey candidate last week is because I had it in mind that Nick Bjugstad is the Gophers’ best Hobey candidate. Bjugstad is third in the nation in goals (22), and is the leading scorer on a Minnesota team that’s primed to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

I’m not really seeing much in terms of Hobey candidates from the CCHA, save the goalies we discussed last week, like Jared Coreau of Northern Michigan and Shawn Hunwick from Michigan. If there’s there’s one skater I like to contend for a Hobey finalist spot out of the CCHA, it’d probably have to be Miami’s Reilly Smith, who’s second only to Colgate’s Austin Smith when it comes to goals. However, when you add Smith and Bjugstad along with the players we’ve already mentioned, that’s a strong group of candidates with a shot at the Hobey.

So, whom do you like as the top Hobey contender out of the West? How do you think this group stacks up against the Hobey candidates from the East?

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  • Jason

    It’s nice that you recognize what we are saying. Regardless if what we say is right or wrong it’s nice to get acknowledged so thanks for that. 

  • Vizoroo

    Drew Shore

  • Poker Face

    As an easterner, I just want to interject and say that I’m fine with a westerner winning the award this year.  This year the best player in the East is Kreider but he doesn’t have the numbers.  Same with Dumoulin – hands down the best defenseman in the East.  Both phenomenal talents and they look great when you watch them.  Don’t be fooled by Spencer Abbott.  Not Hobey material.  Good player having a great season but he won’t blow anyone away.  No goalies out East really stick out either, especially in HE where the level of competition is high.  This kid in the ECAC has eleven billion goals but the ECAC is borderline DIII. 

    Is it time maybe we actually give it to the best player and not the guy with the most goals/points.  People are such stuck on the numbers end of the argument it is just getting ridiculous.

    • css228

      Yeah 30 goals in a defensive league not Hobey worthy? If Colgate makes the tourney it has to be Smith

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/47PKUYKAFBPJBMZF33WFXLKANA Chad

        Does Smith have nearly 200 career points?

        Thought so.  The Hobey isn’t always a single-season award, no matter how much they say it is.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WEX6U4YC32QLNJBJUTGGJXG2PE K

          idiot… yes, it IS a single-season award… given out EACH year. duh. with a relatively lack-luster league, its an ease to knock down goals

        • keppelfinga

          smith no, connolly is the leading scorer for all active skaters

    • Boston-Maine~iak

      How is Abbott not a legitimate candidate? The kid took his game to a whole other level this season. The Black Bears needed people to step up and fill voids left by last year’s Seniors and Gustav Nyquist and Abbott (along with Flynn, Diamond, and Mangene) have been a major reason why Maine has had the season they have had and are back in the National picture. 

      • Taylor Birkelo

        Sorry Jack is the only honest contender for this.

      • 2011NAT_champsUMD

        gosh now only if Abbott did that for 4 straight years like Jack Connolly did then he might have a chance…..Jack is at 191 points. This is his second straight 50+ point year. Come on man pull your ” East Coast Biased” head out.

    • Tom

      Ur dumb Abbott is def top candidate been leadin league for a while and taking Maine to the tourney after loosing Gus. KReider is good but not hobby material this year, Abbotts put up mad points and set lots of achievments this year, like turning around a team ppl wrote off after winning 3 og the first 11. The Maine reason was Abbott.

      • WCHAFAN

        Bet he is not as dumb as the guy who thinks it is the “Hobby” Baker Award.

  • ColSkate

    Poker Face should wake up and smell the coffee. The Union goalie – I think it’s Troy Grosenick – is only leading the country in GAA – something like 1.52. He is far and away the best and deserving of Hobey mention. And this is coming from an arch enemy who would like to see Austin Smith win the award.

    • Gatefan

      Since when is Union our archenemy?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H34H3N53RWXPTA2FB6VYBI5FOA JJ

     Jack Connolly should win this hands down. The best college hockey player, in the best league on the best team.

    • Agassiseven

      Best team that is in 2 nd place.  Was lost 2 to the Gophers.  Not so much..

  • Brettno44

    How can you not even mention Torey Krug of MSU as he is leading the CCHA in league scoring as a D-man??????

  • Geoffrey Chiles

    Wait…MSU fans follow hockey?

  • krios

    I also wanted to say thanks for listening. Whether we were all wrong or right, it was nice of you to listen and acknowledge our comments. 

  • Tech Fan

    Jack Connolly.  Leadership.  Integrity.  Makes plays and delivers the puck like no-one else.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WEX6U4YC32QLNJBJUTGGJXG2PE K

      all done in a weak league.  its easy to play division-2 quality opponents

      • Cdahlin05

        Hahahaha, weak league???? You fricken crack me up. That is the exact equivalent to calling the SEC weak in football. Get a clue pal.

      • WCHAFAN

        Gotta be the dumbest statement ever made on this site…  Ill take any WCHA team and plug them into any other conference around, and bet my lif savings they finifh in at least the top half of that conference.

  • broz

    Look at JCon’s entire career as well as this season. Looking at the big picture he wins. With his scoring and leadership he has taken a Bulldog team way beyond expectations this season. GO JACK!

  • keppelfinga

    jack connolly deserves this. leadership like said before, and he proved to everyone he can be a top player even when he lost both of his linemates.

  • 2011NAT_champsUMD

    Kent Patterson? WHO? who does he play for? Kenny Reiter from UMD has a better chance of winning it than Patterson does. I mean Reiter has 5 points this year….as a GOALIE. He has more points than 10 players on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMTC) squad…..But with that aside UMD’s Jack Connolly will win HANDS DOWN. Nobody else in the country even has a remotely close chance of winning. Wooo, Abbott puts up 4 points against North Dakota in a weekend. While Jack on the other hand puts up 6 in a weekend against North Dakota…Oh yea and (5) in Saturdays game. All the East Cost people can shut up. Not a chance…. Jack Connolly will be UMD’s nation leading fifth Hobey Baker Award Winner come season end.

    • Tom

       I didn’t know Abbott vs JC came down to a ND Series lol, checkout Abbotts series last year vs them.  5 points is a solid game even thou ND spent most the game in the box, thats a huge help….

      For this season Abbott has a better story, bringing a team who won only 3 games out of the first 11, back to make the tournament(first time since 07), something that was never done with Nyquist.  Also to be leading the nation on a team that wasn;t ranked number 1 all year is a big thing as well.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WEX6U4YC32QLNJBJUTGGJXG2PE K

    who is this idiot Olshansky??  a native of Minnesota?  when it comes to puck, all leagues are ignored except WCHA and Hockey East.  we’ll see who comes out on top

  • Ryan Lund

    Bjustad is the best canidate just look at the teams success if Bjustad scores the gophers usually win. So if Bjustad doesnt come to play so do the gophers! Look out fo the Gophers in the NCAA we will be in the frozen four and make it to the title game

  • RyanMaine

    Abbott should take it!!! Best player this year!!

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