Our final edition of Hobey Watch for the 2015-16 season includes the final straw poll taken by our writers.These will be our final predictions before the Hobey Hat Trick announcement on Thursday.First, let’s revisit the 10 finalists as announced by the committee on March 16:JT Compher, MichiganKyle Connor, MichiganThatcher Demko, Boston CollegeZac Lynch, Robert MorrisAlex Lyon, YaleTyler Motte, MichiganAlex Petan, Michigan TechAndrew Poturalski, New HampshireEthan Prow, St. Cloud StateJimmy Vesey, HarvardAnd here are the results of this week’s balloting by our Hobey Watch panel, which includes six writers — one covering each of the six Division I men’s conferences:
1. Kyle Connor, Michigan
The freshman assisted on the game-winning goal in overtime in the Wolverines’ 3-2 win over Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He also picked up a helper in Michigan’s season-ending loss to North Dakota in the Midwest Regional final. Connor ended the year with 71 points (35 goals, 36 assists). He leads the nation in goals and points.
2. Tyler Motte, Michigan
Connor’s linemate scored the game-winner against Notre Dame and had a pair of assists against North Dakota. He ended his junior season with 32 goals and 25 assists for 57 points. Motte is second in Division I in goals and third in points.
3. Thatcher Demko, Boston College
Demko is the only Hobey finalist that will play in this season’s Frozen Four, leading the Eagles to the Northeast Regional title with wins over Harvard and Minnesota-Duluth. The junior stopped 50 of 53 shots he faced on the weekend, and was named the most outstanding player of the regional. Demko is tied for second in the country in save percentage (.936), is seventh in GAA (1.85) and tops in shutouts (10).
4. JT Compher, Michigan
The final member of the Michigan triumvirate, Compher also assisted on Motte’s OT winner against Notre Dame and had both goals in the Wolverines’ 5-2 loss to North Dakota the following day. He ended his junior campaign with 16 goals and 47 assists for 62 points. He’s second in the nation in points and first in assists.
5. Jimmy Vesey, Harvard
The lone senior of this group, Vesey ended his college career with a 4-1 loss to Boston College on the Northeast Regional semifinal. Vesey finished with 46 points, including 24 goals.Others receiving votes: Alex Lyon, Yale; Sam Anas, Quinnipiac; Ethan Prow, St. Cloud StateAnas, whose Quinnipiac Bobcats advanced to the Frozen Four, got some votes from our writers despite not being among the list of actual Hobey finalists. Lyon’s season came to an end in a 3-2 loss to UMass-Lowell last Saturday, as did Prow’s with St. Cloud State’s overtime loss to Ferris State.So what’s my final prediction?I think the winner will be Kyle Connor, and not just because he came in first in every one of our straw polls over the last few weeks.If Jack Eichel set the bar for rookies winning the Hobey Baker Award in this era last season, then Connor stacks up very well. Both had 71-point seasons, with Connor scoring more goals (35 to 26).Michigan’s Big Ten schedule wasn’t as arduous as that of Boston University last season, but looking closer at the numbers again shows a favorable comparison. Eichel played in 19 games against ranked teams in 2014-15, scoring 11 goals and 16 assists for a points per game average against ranked teams of 1.42. Eichel’s overall PPG average was 1.78.Connor’s Wolverines played in 13 games this season against teams ranked at the time, with the freshman posting 13 goals and 12 assists for a PPG average of 1.92 in games against ranked teams. His overall PPG was 1.87, not as marked a difference between ranked and overall as Eichel’s.Do those numbers lose a bit of luster because 10 of Connor’s goals and four assists came in five games against Penn State? The Nittany Lions were not ranked in the latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, but they were in the five games against Connor and Michigan. Even with that caveat, I think he’ll walk away with the trophy.I’m going with Compher and Demko as the other members of the Hobey Hat Trick, but with some reservations, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see Prow get a block of Western votes, and Vesey get credit for being a repeat finalist and sticking around for his senior year.Our writers like Motte better than my picks, but on a line with the two other finalists, his fantastic season is, I think, still third-best among the trio.Check back on Thursday when the Hobey Hat Trick is announced, and we’ll be in Tampa for the announcement of this year’s winner on April 8.