Making exceptions

A lot of analysis goes into our season-long discussion of the Hobey Baker Award. We look at numbers, watch the way players impact their teams, talk about what goes on – good and bad – off the ice, you name it.

In the end, though, I think it comes down to one thing: being exceptional.

I started to get on this subject in my last post, as it concerns Brock Bradford of Boston College. His numbers so far this season are impressive, and they’ll make him a Hobey finalist, if this keeps up, but that kind of scoring isn’t exceptional at Boston College under Jerry York. It’s worth noting that with all the Eagle forwards who have been named Hobey finalists during York’s tenure at BC, the one Hobey winner at BC under York has been Mike Mottau, a defenseman.

In his Hobey Baker season of 1999-2000, Mottau averaged a point per game from the blueline, while also winning Hockey East’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year award. That’s exceptional.

Ryan Miller set an NCAA record for save percentage in 2000-01, the year he won the Hobey at Michigan State. Exceptional.

Matt Carle had 53 points in 39 games as a defenseman in 2005-06. Again, exceptional.

Peter Sejna had 82 points in 42 games for Colorado College in 2002-03. You see anyone else scoring 80 points in a college season lately?

Kevin Porter spent most of last season atop the national scoring charts, while captaining a team with all of two seniors to a CCHA regular-season championship, the Great Lakes Invitational title, a Mason Cup, and the Frozen Four. You see where I’m going here?

So, the next logical question is: Who’s exceptional in college hockey this season?

Colin Wilson at BU is a good place to start. He’s been quiet in the last couple of weeks, but even with his scoring average “down” to 1.31 points per game (from about 1.54 before the BC series), he’s on pace to score 47 points if he plays 36 games. That would be the rest of the regular season – minus the games he’ll miss for World Juniors – plus four postseason games. Somehow, I think he’ll play more than that, but even if he doesn’t, 47 points would be the most scored at BU since Chris Drury scored 57 in his Hobey Baker season, 1997-98. That may not mean much if he doesn’t wind up at or near the top of the national scoring chart, but if Wilson can resume his previous pace, I think he has a much better shot at the Hobey than does his rival from further up Commonwealth Avenue, Brock Bradford.

The nation’s current leading scorer, James vanRiemsdyk of UNH, also has a shot at being exceptional and winning the Hobey. The Wildcat sophomore is on pace for 55 points in 36 games, which hasn’t been done at UNH since 2004-05, when Sean Collins scored 56 points in 42 games. Before that, you’d have to go back to Jason Krog’s mind-blowing 79 points in 38 games in his Hobey Baker year of 1998-99. Clearly, vanRiemsdyk is scoring at an exceptional pace. Of course, the real exception they’d like to see in Durham is an exception to the Wildcats’ recent run of early exits from the NCAA tournament.

There are also a couple of blueliners who strike me as exceptional in their play thus far. Gregg Flynn of Air Force has 22 points in 16 games and may give teammate Jacques Lamoureux a run for the Atlantic Hockey entry into the Hobey race (Brent Olson is also racking up the points in the Springs, but Lamoureux has 12 goals to Olson’s five, and goals definitely count for more than assists when it comes to comparing point totals among Hobey contenders).

Also on the blueline, Minnesota State’s Kurt Davis is on pace for 47 points, which isn’t too far away from Carle’s Hobey numbers, and certainly notable among defensemen. Of course, it can be hard to win the Hobey when your team doesn’t make the playoffs, and while that didn’t stop Carle, he’d already been part of two NCAA championship teams, which was a point in his favor. I think Minnesota State will have to at least make the NCAA tournament this year for Davis to get any serious Hobey consideration, but it may be a possibility.

I’ve pointed out that it’s very hard for Cornell goalies to win, because their numbers are chalked up to The System, but Ben Scrivens is stopping shots at a Miller-esque pace: His 1.21 goals-against average and .954 save percentage are both better than Miller’s at this point, and that even includes a sound drubbing at the hands of North Dakota the day after Thanksgiving. Obviously, those numbers are going to be hard to keep up through the second half of the season, but if Scrivens can do it, it’s going to be very hard to deny him the award.

Of course, we’re just reaching the end of the first half of the season now, and the second half may tell a much different story. However, the story will end with someone hoisting the Hobey in D.C., and one thing you can count on is that that somebody will be exceptional.

So far, these are some of the guys who look like they might fit the bill.