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Nathan Wells | | February 19, 2020

College hockey: Contenders, leaders for each of the 2020 awards

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It’s nearly awards season. Over the next six weeks, the Hobey Baker Award, Patty Kazmaier Award, the Mike Richter Award and many more individual honors will be presented to the top NCAA hockey players.

For several awards, there’s still time for players to make a final case for themselves with a strong finish. Here are my picks for who is contending and who would win six different awards if the season ended now.

Men's hockey

Hobey Baker Award

The most prestigious individual award handed out in Division I men’s hockey, the Hobey Baker Award dates back to 1981 when Minnesota’s Neal Broten, fresh off helping the United States win a gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics, was named the inaugural recipient. It’s been awarded to the top men’s hockey players annually since. Massachusetts’ Cale Makar, now with the Colorado Avalanche, is the most recent winner.

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Candidates: Jason Cotton, Sacred Heart (F); Jack Dugan, Providence (F); David Farrance, Boston University (D); Jordan Kawaguchi, North Dakota (F); John Leonard, Massachusetts (F); Griffin Loughran, Northern Michigan (F); Tyler Madden, Northeastern (F); Marc Michaelis, Minnesota State (F); Brinson Pasichnuk, Arizona State (D); Scott Perunovich, Minnesota Duluth (D)

My pick: Kawaguchi. This isn’t a year of the D sequel (although the ones listed are extremely deserving and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a goalie or two below in the conversation). I expect the award to return to a forward. There’s another four or five who were tough to leave off the list. 

Kawaguchi, named my first half MVP, continues to make his Hobey Baker case leading the top-ranked Fighting Hawks. After a slow start with one point in his first four games, the junior forward has a point in all but three games. He’s gained ground on Dugan’s nation-leading point total, with a more balanced 44 points (15G-29A) than Dugan’s 49 (9G-40A). The two are the only ones averaging more than 1.5 points per game. That’s helped make the decision easier as the tightened gap and North Dakota’s team success compared to Providence gives this one to Kawaguchi.

Mike Richter Award

Given to the top men’s Division I goaltender, the Mike Richter Award continues to grow in prominence since being introduced in 2014. Inaugural winner Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) is now the starting goalie for the Winnipeg Jets.

Candidates: Zach Driscoll, Bemidji State; Stefano Durante, AIC; Matthew Galajda, Cornell; Spencer Knight, Boston College; John Lethemon, Michigan State; Strauss Mann, Michigan; Frank Marrotte, Clarkson; Dryden McKay, Minnesota State; Jeremy Swayman, Maine; Tyler Wall, UMass Lowell

My pick: Lethemon. This is a tough pick over Dryden McKay and my most off-the-board selection, but it’s hard to believe Michigan State would be contending for a Big Ten title and NCAA tournament berth without Lethemon’s play. He’s been that valuable.

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No one besides maybe Swayman, who has faced more shots than any other goalie, is counted on as much as the MSU senior. The Spartans are outshot by nearly 4 shots per game and are currently 45th (of 60 teams) in team offense. His five shutouts (tied for the second-most in college hockey) in his senior year are more than the first three combined. Lethemon’s .935% save percentage is also top-five nationally. McKay, who leads in both save percentage and shutouts for a Minnesota State team that has been in the top-three most of the season, remains a favorite if Michigan State fails to win the Big Ten or make the NCAA tournament.

Men’s rookie of the year

The award given to the most outstanding freshman has been named after former Yale head coach Tim Taylor.

Candidates: Nick Abruzzese, Harvard (F);  Ronnie Attard, Western Michigan (D); Bobby Brink, Denver (F); Cole Caufield, Wisconsin (F); Spencer Knight, Boston College (G); Aidan McDonough, Northeastern (F); Alex Newhook, Boston College (F); Shane Pinto, North Dakota (F); Braeden Tuck, Sacred Heart (F); Trevor Zegras, Boston University (F)

My pick: Abruzzese. Another tough choice between the Harvard rookie and a pair of 2019 NHL first-round picks in Caufield and Spencer Knight. While Caufield got out to a hot start before cooling off and Knight continues to live up to the high expectations placed upon him, Abruzzese, a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, stands out for his consistency. He’s had four different point streaks of four games or more. More importantly, he leads all first-year players nationally with 35 points despite playing five fewer games. If he can continue his pace and Harvard can find a way to sneak into the NCAA tournament, the award is Abruzzese’s award to lose. Otherwise, it might be a year for Knight.

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Women’s hockey:

Patty Kazmaier Award

Awarded to the top NC women's hockey player, the Patty Kazmaier Award is the premier women’s hockey honor. Since its inception in 1998, one defender, three goalies and 18 forwards have been named winners of the award.

Candidates: Jaime Bourbonnais, Cornell (D); Sarah Fillier, Princeton (F); Skylar Fontaine, Northeastern (D); Jaycee Gebhard, Robert Morris (F); Elizabeth Giguere, Clarkson (F); Emma Maltais, Ohio State (F); Alina Mueller, Northeastern (F); Sophie Shirley, Wisconsin (F); Daryl Watts, Wisconsin (F); Grace Zumwinkle, Minnesota (F)

My pick: Watts. What was a runaway in the first half has now become a close race. Watts, the 2018 winner looking to join Jennifer Botterill as the only player to win the award twice and become the first player to win the award at two different schools, slowed down somewhat. Giguere leads the nation with 30 goals, Fillier is on pace to top 50 points once again despite playing on an Ivy League team, and the goalie of the year winner (see below) has flashy stats of her own. That’s not to say anything about the fantastic season from Watts’ Wisconsin teammates Sophie Shirley and Abby Roque, who have 26 and 23 goals, respectively.

As close as others are getting, it’s still Watts’ award to lose. She remains the only player to be averaging more than 2 points per game on a team that has spent the entire season among the top two teams in the nation. Watts has a point in all but three games this season, garnering a 19-game point streak that was just snapped by Ohio State on Sunday.

Goalie of the year

Technically, no goalie of the year award exists in women’s hockey. There should be. Lovisa Selander’s performance last season should be immortalized in an award (and RPI’s performance this season after she graduated helps further prove why). While no one will win, it’s important to honor the top goalies. One or two of these goaltenders will likely end up a Patty Kazmaier Award top-10 finalist.

Candidates: Lindsay Browning, Cornell; Chantal Burke, Penn State; Marie-Pier Coulombe, Clarkson; Aerin Frankel, Northeastern, Maddie Rooney, Minnesota Duluth; Corinne Schroeder, Boston University; Sydney Scobee, Minnesota; Vika Simons, St. Michael’s

My pick: Browning. A good argument can be made for Frankel, whose numbers come close to the Cornell junior and faced over 200 more shots with Northeastern. Browning has played almost every minute for the Big Red, allowing 0.74 goals per game and a .960% save percentage, both of which lead the nation. So do her 10 shutouts for Cornell, which has lost once all season. Those numbers are Patty Kazmaier Award-worthy, let alone goalie of the year worthy.

Women’s rookie of the year

On the other hand, the national women’s rookie of the year does exist, having been given out since Minnesota’s Dani Cameranesi won the inaugural honor in 2014. Other notable names awarded the honor include Annie Pankowski, Sarah Potomak, and three names listed above in Gebhard, Watts and Fillier.

Candidates: Hannah Bilka, Boston College (F), Olivia Cvar, St. Cloud State (F); Gabrielle David, Clarkson (F); Elle Hartje, Yale (F); Ida Kuoppala, Maine (F); Bella McKee, Union (G), Carrigan Umpherville, LIU (F); Madeline Wethington, Minnesota (D)

My pick: Bilka. In what has been a tough season for Boston College, Bilka stands out as a positive. The Coppel, Texas, native leads all first-year players in assists and points per game while being depended upon to play a major role for the Eagles. Others who stand out include David being in a similar situation for a Clarkson team seeing its share of injuries. Wethington fits in seamlessly on the Minnesota blue line.

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