Total of 23 ‘outstanding and well-matched field of candidates’ nominated for 65th Walter Brown Award

Tage Thompson (Stephen Slade)
UConn’s Tage Thompson is just a sophomore, but already a two-time nominee for the Walter Brown Award (photo: Stephen Slade).

The Gridiron Club of Greater Boston announced Monday that 23 NCAA Division I players are semifinalists for the 65th Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England.

The nation’s oldest nationally-recognized college hockey honor, the Walter Brown Award was established in 1953 by the members of the 1933 Massachusetts Rangers, the first American team ever to win the World Championship Tournament. Brown coached the Rangers to the title in Prague, Czechoslovakia, that year as the team defeated Canada 2-1 in overtime in the championship game.

Thirteen teams are represented in the slate of candidates that includes 16 players from Hockey East, five from ECAC Hockey and two from Atlantic Hockey. The slate comprises 16 forwards, four goalies and three defensemen.

Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and UMass Lowell all have three nominees, while Northeastern and New Hampshire have two apiece.

Eight of the 2017 nominees were semifinalists a year ago – Boston College forwards Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald, Northeastern forward Zach Aston-Reese, Connecticut forward Tage Thompson, New Hampshire forward Tyler Kelleher, UMass Lowell defenseman Dylan Zink, Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen and Bentley forward Kyle Schmidt.

The following is the complete list of semifinalists, by team:

Boston College
Ryan Fitzgerald, senior forward
Colin White, sophomore forward
Joe Woll, freshman goalie

Boston University
Clayton Keller, freshman forward
Charlie McAvoy, sophomore defenseman
Jake Oettinger, freshman goalie

Adam Fox, freshman defenseman
Merrick Madsen, junior goalie
Sean Malone, senior forward

UMass Lowell
Joe Gambardella, senior forward
C.J. Smith, junior forward
Dylan Zink, senior defenseman

New Hampshire
Patrick Grasso, freshman forward
Tyler Kelleher, senior forward

Zach Aston-Reese, senior forward
Adam Gaudette, sophomore forward

Kyle Schmidt, junior forward

Sam Lafferty, junior forward

Tage Thompson, sophomore forward

Holy Cross
Danny Lopez, junior forward

Cam Brown, senior forward

Stefanos Lekkas, freshman goalie

John Hayden, senior forward

“This number of semifinalists matches last year’s, our largest contingent ever for the Walter Brown Award,” said Gridiron Club Hockey Awards Committee chairman Tim Costello in a statement. “In some years, one or two candidates have been clear front-runners, even at this stage of the season. But not this year. What happens during the final month of the season, starting tonight at the Beanpot, will have a great impact on the final voting – and it’s probable that the voting will be very close.

“This is an outstanding and well-matched field of candidates.”

The Gridiron Club will announce the finalists and winner of the award in March, following league playoffs and before the start of NCAA tournament play. The award will be presented to the winner at the New England College Hockey Writers’ Dinner on April 11.