Face Off: Week 6

Welcome to U.S. College Hockey Online’s roundtable discussion. We’ll be debating a college hockey topic each week in this space, where various members of our staff meet to argue. Sometimes serious, sometimes silly — but either way, watch the feathers fly: no punches will be pulled, and no quarter given, when these people face off.

Who Should/Will Win Rookie of the Year in the Four Major Conferences?

Dave Hendrickson, Hockey East Correspondent: Ask Hockey East coaches which one rookie they’d most want for the next three years and it would be near-unanimous. Hands down, they’d take BU’s Tom Poti.

After a game early this season, one coach said that the Terriers had three game-breakers: Chris Drury, Shawn Bates and Poti. Pretty nice company for a freshman defenseman. Poti has earned such accolades with his skillful offensive play as well as his generally dependable work in his own end.

But Poti won’t win it. Defensemen, even flashy ones like Poti, rarely get a fair shake at awards time. It’s easier to check scoring totals and pick the high man, or determine which goaltender stood on his head most often, such as Marc Robitaille and Sean Matile this year.

Hockey East will instead honor the second-best rookie in the league, BC’s Jeff Farkas. At the halfway point, he deserved minimal consideration. Lesser-known recruits like UMass-Lowell’s Greg Koehler and Maine’s Corey Larose — not to mention teammate Blake Bellefeuille — regularly outscored Farkas.

But since the World Junior Tournament, Farkas has been on a rampage; his play down the stretch puts him head and shoulders above other rookie forwards. So, with apologies to Poti, his forward brethren, and Robitaille and Matile, Farkas will carry home the hardware.

Lee Urton, Media Relations: For the WCHA, Dave Spehar, F, Minnesota.

I love this guy! Someone once described him as not necessarily fast, but quick. At the time, I thought that was ridiculous, but after watching him play I see that it’s completely true.

It took Spehar some time to adjust to the college game, but after a half-season, he really took off — he just had a 14-game scoring streak snapped. This guy has a great nose for the net and excellent passing abilities. He also draws a lot of penalties with his talent and size (a modest 5-foot-7, 172 lbs).

He’s already a good player — in future years look for him to become a great one.

Mike Machnik, Special Projects: In Hockey East, the decision will be as tough as it ever has been. One can make a case for about a half-dozen different players, so instead, here’s a look at the leading candidates for the All-Rookie Team.

At forward, Boston College’s Jeff Farkas (9-17–26) has garnered the most accolades, but right behind him are Mass Lowell’s Greg Koehler (11-18–29) and Maine’s Cory Larose (8-20–28). Also deserving of votes are BC’s Blake Bellefeuille (10-15–25) and New Hampshire’s Mike Souza (13-7–20).

Defense is a little clearer, as Boston University’s Tom Poti and BC’s Mike Mottau have distanced themselves from the pack as superb two-way players.

In goal, there is again a logjam, with three freshman netminders playing key roles on their teams. UNH’s Sean Matile and Northeastern’s Marc Robitaille may fight it out for the honor, with Matile having the better numbers, including a Hockey East-record three shutouts. But Robitaille has been an impressive workhorse for a Husky squad that has often depended solely on him to keep them in games. Also, Maine’s Alfie Michaud has rebounded from a slow start to have a strong second semester, and has been a key to his team’s turnaround.

When the voting is tabulated, chances are that Farkas, Koehler and Matile will receive the strongest support for Rookie of the Year, but whatever happens, Hockey East’s bumper crop of freshmen promises to be a class to keep an eye on in the upcoming years.

Jayson Moy, ECAC Correspondent: I think it’s down to just a few players right now in the ECAC, three of which are goaltenders: J.R Prestifilippo of Harvard and Scott Prekaski and Joel Laing of RPI.

Prestifilippo has embarked on a huge streak of consecutive games played. He is the future of Harvard goaltending, but is playing for a team currently in sixth place. Prekaski and Laing play for a team tied for first, which automatically gives them higher consideration.

Prekaski has been Rookie of the Week twice, Laing once. Preakski gets the nod over Laing here because of his record (6-1-1 ECAC vs. 4-3-1 ECAC).

Others in consideration: At forward, Jeff Hamilton of Yale and Pete Gardiner of RPI. Hamilton was a rocket in the first half of the season, but has tailed off (three points since the Denver Cup). Gardiner has quietly become the leading rookie scorer in the ECAC. He has 24 points on the season (8-16) and is tied for 12th in the league in scoring (5-11-16).

On defense, there’s Dominique Auger of Princeton. He has six goals and 12 assists on the season, and is clearly one of the finest offensive defensemen to step into the ECAC in recent years. The other would have to be Brian Pothier of RPI — one goal and 10 assists. His numbers are not those of Auger, so Auger gets the nod here.

If I had to make a choice, I’d go with the offense and Pete Gardiner of RPI.

Scott Brown, Features Editor: The CCHA has not had a bumper crop of rookies this season, but a few guys do come to mind.

The overall leader among CCHA freshmen is Ohio State’s Hugo Boisvert (10-23–33), the only rookie among the top 20 overall scorers in the conference. Boisvert’s club has languished in the basement most of the season, but the Buckeyes have now moved into seventh place, which may improve his prospects.

Also at forward, Adam Edinger (11-14–25) of Bowling Green and Joe Dusbabek (12-12–24) of Notre Dame have made significant contributions. However, the award just might end up in the hands of a defenseman: Daryl Andrews (4-18–22) of Western Michigan, who leads all CCHA blueliners in points. However, the Broncos have not performed up to expectations this year, despite a solid recent run. That may handicap Andrews’ chances.

BGSU also has a defensive candidate in Peter Ratchuk (8-9–17), who scored goals in both games against Fairbanks last weekend. Between the pipes, no goalies are viable candidates this year, though Ray Aho (5-14-0, 4.47 GAA, .866 SV%) has been improving while soaking up most of the minutes for OSU.

All things being equal, Andrews might be the most deserving candidate — a scoring defenseman in a year when rookie point totals are down. However, he probably won’t get it, as the league will honor either Boisvert or Edinger, who has the advantage of playing for a team which has really turned it on lately.