Proving Grounds

Happy Hockeydays, everybody!

If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of the holiday tournaments as an opportunity for Hobey candidates to make their case. Not only is it non-conference competition (which gives candidates exposure to coaches in other conferences, who vote for the Hobey finalists), but it captures the finalists at mid-season form.

And, as it happens, there’s a particularly interesting group of games for this year’s Hobey contenders to take part in.

Wisconsin defenseman Brendan Smith is probably the leader in the Hobey race at this point. When you consider a defenseman who’s the No. 3 scorer in the country, playing for a top 10 team, and a plus on the score sheet, it’s hard to imagine a better candidate. Smith and the Badgers will take on another ranked opponent at the Badger showdown, either No. 9 Yale or No. 11 Ferris State, depending on the outcome of their game and the Badgers’ matchup with Merrimack.

Meanwhile, No. 4 Cornell’s dynamic duo of Blake Gallagher and Colin Greening have a big challenge in No. 3 Colorado College. The Tigers are a solid penalty-killing team, and will challenge the nation’s best power play, where Gallagher and Greening do the bulk of their damage.

Maine’s resurgence in Hockey East has been powered by Gustav Nyquist,  the nation’s No. 5 scorer (1.47 PPG), and Nyquist will get a shot at either the Big Red or the Tigers, depending on the result of their game and the Black Bears’ matchup with Princeton. I haven’t written a whole lot about Nyquist, but he’s been an impact player for Tim Whitehead since his arrival in Orono, and if the Black Bears reclaim their usual position as a top four team in Hockey East by season’s end, Nyquist will likely have a lot to do with it, and he’ll be rewarded as such. Meanwhile, coaches in ECAC Hockey (and possibly the WCHA) will get a good look at Nyquist when they watch the video from this game for scouting purposes.

As far as goaltenders go, Denver’s Marc Cheverie face No. 5 Boston College on Saturday in the Denver Cup. Last time the Eagles visited Magness Arena, in the 2005-06 season, they never saw the Pioneers, as the then-champs dropped their first-round game to Princeton, but this year, the matchups are predetermined, so regardless of what happens in the New Year’s Day games between Denver and Nebraska-Omaha and BC and St. Lawrence, the Eagles face the Pioneers, and Cheverie will get a look at the nation’s No. 5 offense.

Overall, it should be an interesting week in the Hobey race, and in college hockey as a whole.