Hobey Baker Watch List: Week One
With many players choosing to take their talents to the NHL this past summer, the Hobey Baker Award race is wide open heading into the 2016-17 college hockey season. Last year’s winner, Jimmy Vesey from Harvard, signed with the New York Rangers and many contenders for the award a year ago are either playing in the NHL or Europe. With that being said, it’s not too early to take a look at potential recipients of the 2017 Hobey Baker Award.
From last year’s list of candidates, look out for Brock Boeser of North Dakota and Dylan Gambrell of Denver. Both were on high-scoring lines last year for their respective teams, and both are only sophomores who could stand out on teams amid line-mates either going pro or graduating. Boeser’s NHL rights are owned by the Vancouver Canucks, while Gambrell's are held by defending Western Conference champion San Jose.
Boston College has a couple of players that could contend for the award, as Ryan Fitzgerald and Colin White look to be ready to take the next steps, as both will head to the NHL in the near future. White stands out more than Fitzgerald, as the former was a point-per-game player last year, but both should be in the conversation as the season goes on. Fitzgerald’s NHL rights held by the Boston Bruins and White’s by the Ottawa Senators, with White being a first-round pick of the team last spring.
While those four lead the early conversation, there are many other candidates around college hockey. Senior forward Justin Kloos from Minnesota will garner interest throughout the season, as he has yet to sign with an NHL team, and senior forward Austin Ortega from Nebraska-Omaha will get attention as well. Cam Johnson, returning goalie for defending national champion North Dakota will be talked about, but no goaltender has won the award since Ryan Miller for Michigan State back in 2001.
Other candidates who are on the outside looking in early include Gerald Mayhew from Ferris State, the leading scorer in the WCHA on a team that went to the NCAA Tournament a year ago. St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton, the ECAC’s top returner in net, could surprise people as well early on.
The unexpected could also happen, as a freshman could come on to the scene and snag the award, as Jack Eichel did just a couple years ago in 2015. There will be a number of frosh to watch this season, but the early list of potential Hobey freshman candidates includes Tyson Jost from North Dakota, Trent Frederic at Wisconsin, and Kieffer Bellows at BU.
The Hobey Baker Award in the past has gone either way, between a predictable candidate who had the award locked up wire-to-wire, and a surprise player coming on in the second half of the season. If recent history is any indication, the player almost always comes from a contending team that makes the NCAA Tournament. Regardless, it will be interesting to see who hoists the award in Chicago when April rolls around, just after the season ends and a champion is crowned. Will it be someone named in this article or a player that college hockey fans have yet to hear of? Let the games begin.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. Shoot him an email at email@example.com.