Hobey Baker Watch: Week Ten
As 2017 begins, the Hobey Baker race is starting to heat up as contenders have emerged across college hockey. With a number of players across each conference putting up numbers, the watch list should be filled with future NHL talent when it is announced later this month. For now, here are the players leading the way for each conference thus far.
Looking at Atlantic Hockey, Brady Ferguson of Robert Morris has been on the fringes of this race so far, but is quietly fourth in the nation in points with 35. In goal, teammate Francis Marotte (1.71 goals against average, .947 save percentage) and Parker Gahagen of Army (1.84, .937) lead the way, and have been gaining national attention as two of the top goaltenders in the country. Overall, the trifecta represents the conference’s best shot at winning its first Hobey in many years.
Over to the Big Ten now, where freshman Denis Smirnov of Penn State has continued his tear, leading the conference in scoring. With 28 points so far, he is putting up more points than any other freshman in the country. He ranks just outside the top 10 in scoring overall. In net, Michigan’s Hayden Lavigne leads the conference in save percentage at .937, while Penn State’s Peyton Jones has the best GAA at 1.98, good for seventh in the country. All three are long shots at the award, but if Smirnov can continue his torrid scoring pace, he might jump into the conversation.
In the ECAC, Mike Vecchione of Union continues to be the name to watch. With 39 points, good for second in the nation, his name has been in nearly every Hobey conversation thus far. His teammate, Spencer Foo is third nationally in scoring with 36. Kyle Hayton of St. Lawrence represents the best goaltender in the conference, and his .931 save percentage puts him in the top 10 nationally, but his paltry 2.22 GAA is fairly mediocre. Overall, Vecchione is one of the biggest contenders for the Hobey, but he has some stiff competition heating up.
Speaking of the competition, senior Tyler Kelleher of UNH has taken the national lead in scoring, passing Vecchione with 40 points on the season. Hockey East certainly has it’s share of contenders and Kelleher sits at the top of the list. Also making himself noticed of late is senior Zach Aston-Reese of Northeastern with 34 points, as well as being fifth in the country in scoring. Jake Oettinger of BU (1.94 GAA, .930 save percentage) remains the top goaltender, whose marks are starting to gain attention nationally, as he climbs into the top 10 for goalies in the country.
In the NCHC, there aren’t many forwards who have been putting together Hobey-like stat lines, but Austin Ortega leads the conference in scoring with 31 points, ranking in the top 10 nationally. Tanner Jaillet of Denver continues to lead for goaltenders, with a 2.00 GAA and .924 save percentage. Those are decent stats for the conference, but not even top 10 nationally. Ortega represents the only real shot a NCHC player has at winning the Hobey this year if he were to explode statistically over the second half of the year.
And lastly, in the WCHA, freshman Marc Michaelis of Minnesota State leads with 27 points, in the top 15 for Division I. For goalies, the conference has a couple standouts. Freshman Angus Redmond of Michigan Tech (1.41 GAA, .937 save percentage) and junior Michael Bitzer of Bemidji State (1.51 GAA, .937 save percentage) both rank among top goalies in the country. Overall though, the song remains similar to the one sung about the NCHC. There are a couple standouts but it would take some remarkable performances to compete for the Hobey.
It can still be anyone’s race to win. Vecchione looked to be running away with the Hobey, but Kelleher, Foo and even Aston-Reese, Bjork or Smirnov could steal the award if they tear it up in their conference schedules. Or it could be the year a goalie wins for the first time since Ryan Miller in 2001. Redmond, Bitzer, Marrotte and Gahagen represent the best chance, if any, of accomplishing the feat.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To reach him via email, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.