The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is presented to a deserving recipient on the day before the last college hockey game of the season. But that doesn’t mean that college hockey fans, players and media members don’t think about it all season. Inside College Hockey’s Hobey Tracker looks at the top three candidates for the award, those whose stock is rising or falling, and other players worthy of consideration.
1. Jimmy Vesey
Harvard | Senior | Forward
To Date: 20 GP, 16-16–32, 5 PPG, 1 SHG, 4 GWG, +10
As a returning Hobey Hat Trick finalist from last year, Vesey entered the season with the pre-established notoriety the helps attract attention when the season begins. He’s done nothing to discount his award candidacy for a Harvard team that has spent most of the season in the top-10 in the country. Vesey has had at least one point in 17 of Harvard’s 20 games and 12 multi-point nights. He scored all three goals in a 3-2 win over St. Lawrence. If there’s a concern, check the games against the big opponents. He had just two assists total in Harvard’s two losses to Quinnipiac and a Beanpot semifinal loss to Boston College.
2. Brock Boeser
North Dakota | Freshman | Forward
To Date: 26 GP, 18-13–31, 5 PPG, 3 GWG, +26
Boeser, a first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2015 NHL Draft, has been on a tear over the past two-plus months with 13 goals and 24 points in his last 16 games. INCH values goals—it’s hard to score ’em—and Boeser is tied for fifth in the nation in that category with 18. If you saw any of North Dakota’s series with Western Michigan last weekend, you noticed Boeser stepping to the fore for the Fighting Hawks in the absence of linemate Drake Caggiula.
3. Joey Benik
St. Cloud State | Senior | Forward
To Date: 28 GP, 17-16–33, 5 PPG, 5 GWG, +23
As mentioned above, we value goal-scoring in considering this award, and Benik is the leading goal-scorer for the nation’s second-ranked team in total scoring. On a team that clicks at 31.7 percent on the power play, 12 of Benik’s 17 goals notably come at even strength. He’s also accounted for five game-winning goals on the season. Similarly to Boeser, the hardest part of selecting Benik for mention here is choosing him ahead of equally-talented and noteworthy teammates.
Kyle Connor | Michigan | Freshman | Forward
Only two freshmen have won the Hobey Baker Award—Paul Kariya in 1993 and Jack Eichel last season. Are voters ready to give another rookie the nod? Newcomers like Boeser and Connor, the nation’s leading scorer with 42 points, may force their hand. In 12 games since Dec. 4, Connor has 15 goals and 15 assists; the Wolverines are 9-1-2 during that span. Separating Connor’s value from linemates J.T. Compher and Tyler Motte may be difficult, but averaging nearly two points per game is a good jumping-off point.
Jake Walman | Providence | Sophomore | Defense
Prior to the holidays, Walman might’ve been the Hobey favorite—the defending national champions were 9-0-3, and Walman had 11 goals, more than all but three skaters in the country. But then he missed four December games with an injury (the Friars split those four games) and in eight games since returning to the lineup, he’s scored two goals and five assists as Providence has posted a 4-3-1 record. He should still be part of the conversation, but making a serious run at the top three will require an uptick in production.
Thatcher Demko | Boston College | Jr. | 24 GP, 17-4-3, .938 save pct., 1.65 GAA
Michael Garteig | Quinnipiac | Sr. | 26 GP, 20-1-5, .933 save pct., 1.62 GAA
Cam Johnson | North Dakota | So. | 18 GP, 13-1-1, .948 save pct., 1.31 GAA
Charlie Lindgren | St. Cloud State | Jr. | 27 GP, 21-5-1, .927 save pct., 2.04 GAA
Ask any college hockey follower what makes these four teams special and the first response might be their ability to score lots of goals. But this quartet is comprised of the starting goalies for the top-four teams in the national polls. Those teams stand in the top-nine in the country in scoring offense, but having a big-time goalie to rely upon is what separates them from fifth-ranked Michigan and other teams. You’ve got to play both ends of the ice if you want to be truly elite, and we know that once the postseason comes around the emphasis is on defense. These four goalies aren’t at the Hobey Baker Award-level of Robb Stauber and Ryan Miller, but they’re a big reason why these teams have legitimate Frozen Four and national championship hopes. They will be the difference-makers in March and April.