Revisiting the 25, Part I – The West

This morning, as I was working on my column on Michigan and the balanced scoring the Wolverines have enjoyed this season, I couldn’t help but remember the column on my pre-season blog entry challenging the absence of Carl Hagelin from the list.

Well, Hagelin is having a fine season, and is certainly a big part of why Michigan has the best winning percentage in the CCHA, but at the midway point of the season, I’m just not seeing him as a major Hobey contender. However, it did give me an idea: as we wade through the early stages of the 2011 portion of the season, it’s probably about time to check in with the 25 players I identified before the season, and see who’s truly in the mix.

So, we started this in two parts – a group of forwards and a group of defensemen and goalies – and I figure that’s a good way to continue. Except that we’ll split it into East and West, and in case it will do anything to hold off the “East Coast Bias” accusations, I’ll even start with the West. How ’bout that?

Andy Miele, SR, F, Miami – I had wondered before the season if Miami’s depth would again get in the way of a RedHawks forward earning Hobey consideration, but Miele and Carter Camper (more on him in a second) are standing out from the pack. They’re picking up the slack from the graduation of Jarod Palmer and the pro signing of Tommy Wingels, and leading a Miami team that may not be riding high like recent editions of the RedHawks, but should still be in the mix down the stretch. However, while you probably don’t have Camper’s outstanding success without Miele’s – the success of both centermen stops opponents from focusing on just one line – Camper’s the leading scorer in the nation right now, which means a finalist spot is probably the ceiling for Miele.

Carter Camper, SR, F, Miami – Every time I talk about Camper in connection with the Hobey, I’m reminded of how I heard about him during his freshman year. At the time, some of the broadcasting folks who were voting for him in the CSTV Hobey Watch (especially those with less hair than the rest of us) were talking about how great his name sounds on TV. These days, however, it’s clearly more about his game than his name. He’s knocking on the door of two points per game, he’s the captain of the RedHawks (and when you’re selected as the leader by a locker room like Miami’s, I think that says something), and he’s the nation’s leading scorer. I think it’s fairly obvious that Camper is very likely for a spot in the top 10 and the Hobey Hat Trick, and with a good performance down the stretch by Miami as a team, it’s easy to see Camper hoisting the Hobey in April.

Matt Read, SR, F, Bemidji State – Read made noise early last season as a Hobey candidate, but faded down the stretch among the nation’s scoring leaders. Now, he’s not the top scorer on his own team (that’d be sophomore forward Jordan George). The move to the WCHA has not been kind to the Beavers, and barring some sort of unheard-of second half run, I think it’s safe to say that Read is a non-factor in the Hobey race.

Jack Connolly, JR, F, Minnesota Duluth – Connolly enters this weekend’s exhibition against the US Under-18 team as the No. 10 scorer in the nation, and No. 2 in the WCHA behind Colorado College freshman Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz, of course, broke his ankle at the World Junior Championship (and Hobey tends not to like freshmen anyway), so it’s safe to say that Connolly is the premier Hobey candidate among forwards in the WCHA. That makes him a very likely finalist, with the potential for more depending on what the Bulldogs do down the stretch in the WCHA. Unless, of course, the guy is…

Justin Fontaine, SR, F, Minnesota Duluth – Fontaine has three more goals and six fewer assists than his linemate Connolly, which leaves him as No. 2 in the WCHA in total points and No. 3 in points per game. He’s got more goals, which could very easily come into play if and when things get close between the two. Again, another strong contender for a finalist spot, with the potential for growth pending the Bulldogs’ play in the next couple of months.

Garrett Roe, SR, F, St. Cloud – Unfortunately, I don’t get to see teams the way I used to, which is a shame, because you can’t really figure out what happened to Garrett Roe without seeing it in person. What I do know is that Roe is on pace for his worst statistical year as a Husky, on a team that sits an astonishing 11th in the WCHA. Hopefully, he’ll have better things in store as a pro – I’ve liked Roe’s game for a while – but for now, it looks like he’s getting a hearty, “Thanks for playing.”

Zach Redmond, SR, D, Ferris State – Well, let’s start with the good news: Redmond is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 13 points (5g, 8a) in 15 games, and the Bulldogs are one of three teams tied for fourth place in the CCHA. Now, here’s the bad news: that leaves him fifth in the nation among defensemen in scoring, with Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz the top scoring blueliner from a “Big Four” conference. If Redmond and the Bulldogs make a run into the NCAA Tournament, I could see Redmond getting a finalist spot. However, I think that’s as far as it goes.

Chay Genoway, SR, D, North Dakota – Genoway isn’t on the point-per-game pace he had set before his 2009-10 season ended in injury, but he is tied for third on the Sioux in scoring, and is sixth in the country among defenseman. He’s also the captain of a North Dakota team that’s as hot as any team in the country right now, and a senior who came back for a fifth season when there would have been pro opportunities. That all works in his favor. The other thing that has to be considered, however, is that Matt Frattin is third in the country in goals per game, and if there’s only one North Dakota player who gets Hobey consideration, it might be him. For now, though, I think Genoway is a strong contender for a finalist spot.

Cody Reichard, JR, G, Miami – Reichard did an outstanding job last season as one half of Miami’s two-headed goaltending monster, but I think the general consensus was that the lack of a single standout scorer in Miami’s balanced and dangerous lineup was a major contributor to Reichard’s CCHA Player of the Year selection and Hobey finalist nod. That’s not an issue this year, partly because Carter Camper and Andy Miele are two of the nation’s top five scorers, and partly because Reichard’s season has been, well, underwhelming. In fact, Reichard is having his worst statistical year as a RedHawk, which, combined with the breakout years by Camper and Mile, renders him a non-factor in the Hobey race. Didn’t exactly see that one coming.

Brad Eidsness, JR, G, North Dakota – Like Reichard, Eidsness has tumbled from the ranks of the top goaltenders in the country, logging an .805 save percentage and a 4.12 goals-against average in five appearances this season. Aaron Dell is the man in net for the Sioux now, so it’s “see you next year…maybe” for Eidsness.

Mike Lee, SO, G, St. Cloud – If you’re looking for a reason why a team that was picked to finish in the top three in the WCHA is sitting in 11th at mid-season, goaltending is a good place to start. Lee has outplayed senior Dan Dunn, but not by much: his .891 save percentage and 3.24 GAA aren’t much of an improvement on Dunn’s .883 and 3.36.  Call it a sophomore slump? Sure. That may mean we haven’t heard the last of Mr. Lee, but in term’s of this year’s Hobey race, we certainly have.

So, out of 11 players in the CCHA and WCHA I identified before the season as candidates, we have six potential Hobey finalists to keep an eye on in the second half.

Tomorrow: The East.