Hobey Baker Watch: Week 21

Story posted February 17, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Matthew McLaughlin

Time to continue one of the strongest media traditions in all of sports: speculation about awards before the season even ends. Here’s week 21 of the Hobey Baker Award watchlist.

Jack LaFontaine, G, Minnesota

Like linebackers winning the Heisman, goalies rarely win the Hobey Baker, but LaFontaine’s talent puts him in the conversation at minimum.

Seventeen games into this season, LaFontaine has cut his goals-allowed numbers by more than half of his 2019-20 total, despite the Gophers’ recent three-game losing streak—those losses have been mainly due to an offense that has grown stagnant as the season has progressed, not struggles in net.

The Ontario native is putting up a ridiculous .943 save percentage, and with Minnesota firmly at the top of the Big Ten standings, LaFontaine is an easy choice for the award in an era when goaltending is at a premium.

Cole Caufield, F, Wisconsin

Did you really think this guy was going to be left off this list? Caufield is absolutely lighting up the Big Ten this season for an absurd 33 points through 17 games for the Wisconsin Badgers.

The more important fact is that the Badgers are winning. Winning winning. In their last six contests, the Badgers have won five, including a sweep of the Golden Gophers. In that series, the Badgers put up Golden State Warriors-level numbers with 12 goals, six of which were unanswered in an 8-1 rout in the second game of the series.

Over the course of the season, Caufield has been facilitating (16 assists) and getting great looks at the net (17 goals). There’s a reason why he was selected No. 16 overall in 2019 by the Montreal Canadiens, and this season, he’s proven that his scoring instinct is unmatched.

Matt Kiersted, D, North Dakota

This is the dark horse candidate. Buster Douglas with 42-1 odds before fighting Mike Tyson. Rocky up against Apollo Creed. You may have never heard of Kiersted’s name before, but now that you have, keep your eyes on him.

He won’t put up goals like Caufield or dive for saves like LaFontaine, but Kiersted will initiate the offense and get the puck right on the tape in the offensive zone. He’s listed at 6 feet and 175 pounds, which allows him to play with more speed and crash to the net more in scoring opportunities, leading him, in turn, to rack up an incredible 16 assists so far.

While he isn’t a household name from a nationally recognized program, Kiersted’s rare speed and high intelligence make him capable of going on a hot streak that could catapult him into the Hobey Baker Award consideration. So keep an eye on North Dakota as the season enters the final stretch to see if Kiersted reaches his fullest potential.

 

Matthew McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mem6936@psu.edu.