Hobey Baker Watch: Week Eight

Story posted November 22, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Kaplan

In this week’s Hobey Baker Watch, the standouts are beginning to distance themselves. The true contenders for the award are separating from the pack. For the most part, each conference has at least a few players that are up for consideration thus far. Let's take a look at who has made waves so far in the race to be the best college hockey player in the country.
For Atlantic Hockey, Brady Ferguson of Holy Cross leads with 18 points, beginning to distance himself, also tied for fourth overall in the NCAA. On the defensive side, there are three players tied at +9, Dominic Franco and Blake Box of Army, and Danny Lopez of Holy Cross. In net, Parker Gahagen of Army and newcomer Francis Marotte are making national eyes turn, as the tandem are the second and third best goaltenders in the country respectively. Both have very comparable numbers, Gahagen with a 1.40 goals against average (GAA) and .949 save percentage, Marotte with a 1.48 GAA and .951 save percentage. Overall, both goaltenders definitely have a shot at the Hobey with their performances so far.
In the Big Ten, Denis Smirnov of Penn State still leads the way at 17 points, followed closely by Nick Schilkey and Matt Weis of Ohio State with 15. On defense, the aforementioned pair of Buckeyes lead the conference with a +12 rating, followed closely by Smirnov at +10. Schilkey and Weis are tied for third overall with that mark, with Smirnov tied for eighth. In net, Hayden Lavigne is leading the charge with a 1.50 GAA and .956 save percentage that puts him among the best in the NCAA. Overall, all four are definitely in consideration and could stand out as the season continues. 
Over in the ECAC, Mike Vecchione leads both the conference and college hockey in points with 26, and teammate Spencer Foo follows with 21, second in the conference and NCAA. They both also lead in plus/minus with +15, a mark that also leads Division I hockey. For goalies, Kyle Hayton of St. Lawrence leads save percentage with a .926 mark and Merrick Madsen of Harvard leads goals against average with a 1.82. Overall, Vecchione and Foo represent arguably the two best contenders to win the award outright so far.
And in Hockey East, there is a new leader in points as Joe Gambardella of UMass Lowell has 19, just one point ahead of former top point-getter Anders Bjork of Notre Dame. On defense, Connor Moore of BC leads with a +12, closely followed by teammates Casey Fitzgerald and Scott Savage with +11. Jake Oettinger continues to be the top goaltender in the conference with a 1.79 GAA and .932 save percentage. It seems to be a down year for Hobey contenders from Hockey East in general, but Gambardella and Oettinger represent the best shots for a Hobey winner from the conference. 
In the NCHC, Alex Iafallo of Minnesota-Duluth now leads the conference in scoring with 16 points as former leader Brock Boeser of North Dakota has fallen off, only tied for seventh in the conference with 13. On the blue line, Tucker Poolman of North Dakota and Jimmy Schuldt of St. Cloud State lead with +9 ratings. In goal, Tanner Jaillet of Denver continues to lead with a 1.66 GAA and .934 save percentage. Iafallo and Jaillet are working their way into the conversation but neither are really contenders at the moment. 
Finally in the WCHA, Mitch Hults of Lake Superior State leads with 14 points, but still is nowhere near any of the leaders nationally. On defense, teammate Aidan Wright sports a +8 rating, nice enough for leading the conference but still nowhere close to being in the Hobey conversation. And in goal, Michael Bitzer of Bemidji State continues to put on a clinic with a 1.32 GAA, the best in college hockey, and a .944 save percentage. Bitzer represents essentially the only WCHA contender for the award, as one of the best goalies thus far this season.
Overall, Vecchione and Foo stand out as the leaders for the Hobey. Oettinger from BU, Smirnov from Penn State, and Gambardella from UMass Lowell are beginning to work their way into the conversation as well. Contenders from prior weeks like Bjork and Boeser still have time to make their case, but will have to rally to get back into it. That is the current state of the Hobey Baker award race so far.
Zach Kaplan is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zvk5072@psu.edu