Picking 10

Well, here we go.

By the end of the day, we’ll know the 10 players who have earned the status of finalist for the 2008 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. For the first time, we’ll have some concrete answers after all of the pontificating that tends to happen around this award, not to mention the snazzy highlight video that the Hobey folks put together. 

Of course, there’s a few names that we already know. Michigan’s Kevin Porter, the likely winner, obviously has one of the ten spots, and while it’s unsure what combination of Boston College’s Nathan Gerbe, North Dakota’s Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, and Miami’s Ryan Jones will join him in the Hobey Hat Trick, all three are locks as finalists. So, that’s four, right off the bat.

Of course, Lamoureux will not be the only goalie, in all likelihood. However, after taking more time to think on it, I don’t think the 2008 finalists will match the 2005 group with its four goaltenders. I’m going to say three here, as Lamoureux will be joined by Colorado College freshman Richard Bachman and Miami junior Jeff Zatkoff.

In a year where first-round draft picks like Wisconsin’s Kyle Turris and New Hampshire’s James vanRiemsdyk were all the talk in the incoming freshman class, Bachman has made the biggest impact of any first-year player in the nation, turning aposition of uncertainty for the Tigers into a major strength. In a funny coincidence, Bachman is a draft pick of the Dallas Stars, who currently have CC’s last Hobey Baker winner, Marty Sertich, in their system. Of course, Bachman’s not a winner this year, but if the Stars show some patience, who knows? His remarkable freshman campaign may just be the beginning.

 Zatkoff, meanwhile, has been a model of consistency for the the RedHawks. In 32 games this season, Zatkoff has given up more than two goals just five times. In the business, that’s what’s known as “giving your team a chance to win every night,” and it’s what Zatkoff does. Given that Zatkoff had not had to play back-to-back nights for most of his career until this point, the fact that he’s been so consistent for Miami this season is even more impressive, and I think that stablilty will be rewarded with a finalist nod.

Of course, that will leave some fine netminders on the outside looking in, most notably Kevin Regan of New Hampshire and Billy Sauer of Michigan. Sauer may well be the nation’s most improved player, but I think the Michigan-friendly votes are going to be spread fairly thin (see below), and the fact that Sauer wasn’t even one of Michigan’s own selections for the fan voting says something here. Regan, for his part, has long been underappreciated at New Hampshire, and while he’s a stable backbone to a well-balanced New Hampshire team, I don’t think that he’ll get the recognition that he may well deserve.

So, that’s seven finalists, with three to go. Who will those three be? I’m looking at Michigan’s Chad Kolarik, St. Cloud’s Ryan Lasch, and Boston University’s Peter MacArthur to round out the top 10. Kolarik’s work with Porter on and off the ice has been the difference between a No. 4 finish in the CCHA and the nation’s No. 1 ranking. Lasch has produced a 50-point season and helped lead St. Cloud back to a likely NCAA tournament berth as a sophomore. MacArthur, meanwhile, has emerged as an outstanding leader for the Terriers, particularly sicne being named captain in December, and delivered in the clutch for BU with two goals in each of the Terriers’ Hockey East playoff wins this past weekend.

Now, this is what I think, but there are two other possibilities that wouldn’t particularly surprise me. Bryan Marshall didn’t make my list because of where Nebraska-Omaha finished in the CCHA, but his numbers certainly speak for themselves. I could see him beating out Lasch or Kolarik for one of the last three spots. Also, Regan may beat out MacArthur for a finalist nod out of Hockey East.

From there, well, it remains to be seen.

 EDIT: Silly me, I double-counted Lamoureux. Let’s go with Regan in the last spot, making it four goalies after all. New Hampshire played a strong non-conference schedule this year, with two games each against North Dakota and Colorado College, exposing Regan to voters in other areas.