The Hobey Baker Memorial Award announced Friday that the 2017 recipient of college hockey’s top individual prize is Will Butcher from the University of Denver. The announcement came during the NCAA Frozen Four championship in a live ceremony held at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier in Chicago and aired nationally on NHL Network.
As team captain in his senior season, Butcher has helped guide his Denver Pioneers to the Frozen Four national championship game as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Butcher’s stellar performance as the premiere defenseman in the nation led to a host of postseason awards including: the NCHC Player of the Year, Offensive Defenseman of the Year and for the second straight season, first team All-Conference. Earlier Friday, he was also honored by the American Hockey Coaches Association as a first-team All-American in the West.
Butcher becomes just the sixth defenseman in the 37-year history of the Hobey to be named winner. He was the first blue-liner to be nominated as one of three Hobey hat trick finalists in eight years, last achieved when Matt Gilroy of Boston University won the award in 2009. Butcher joins fellow Denver defenseman Matt Carle (2006) to win the Hobey, becoming just the second Pioneer to be named college hockey’s top player.
Entering the national championship game, Butcher has scored seven goals, dished out 30 assists and his 37 points are second in the nation by a defenseman. The two-time All-American is equally efficient at both ends of the rink. His plus-minus of plus-27 is tied for sixth overall in the nation.
Hobey Baker was the legendary Princeton (1914) hockey player known as America’s greatest amateur athlete 100 years ago. He redefined how the game was played with his coast-to-coast dashes in an era when hockey was contested with seven players and no forward passes. Baker, a member of the U.S. Army’s Air Corp, died testing a repaired aircraft at the end of World War I after he had completed his military service. The Hobey Baker Award criteria includes: displaying outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements. Butcher was selected from a group of ten finalists by a 27-member selection committee and online fan balloting.
Once his college career comes to a close, Butcher won’t have far to travel for his next stop — he is a draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche (fifth round, 2013). Butcher has already completed his Bachelor’s degree in business and is an all-academic performer in the classroom. He was a finalist for the nationally recognized Senior CLASS award. Butcher, a native of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and an avid muskie fisherman, spends volunteer time with Hockey Saves, assisting military personal in learning and playing the game of hockey.