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Patrick Donnelly | NCAA.com | December 15, 2022

2023 Hobey Baker Award watchlist, 3 months into the men's college hockey season

The top college hockey storylines for 2022-23

We're almost to the end of the first semester of action in men's college hockey, and with that, it's a perfect time to revisit and revise some preseason predictions, starting with the Hobey Baker Award watchlist.

Here's what the list at the start of the season looked like:

  • Luke Hughes, defenseman | Michigan
  • Matthew Knies, forward | Minnesota
  • Devon Levi, goaltender | Northeastern
  • Matthew Coronato, forward | Harvard
  • Yaniv Perets, goaltender | Quinnipiac
  • Riese Gaber, forward | North Dakota
  • Mike Benning, defenseman | Denver
  • Logan Cooley, forward | Minnesota
  • Aidan McDonough, forward | Northeastern
  • Zach Metsa, defenseman | Quinnipiac

Honorable mentions at the beginning of the year included Michigan forward Adam Fantilli, Northern Michigan forward A.J. Vanderbeck, Minnesota defenseman Brock Faber and UConn forward Ryan Tverberg, among others.

HOBEY BAKER: Click or tap here for a full break down of the early season watchlist

Now that we're well into the season, let's take a look at what the watchlist looks like for men's college hockey's top individual hardware:

Adam Fantilli, freshman forward | Michigan

Fantilli has been a treat to watch this season, and it's easy to see why he's a projected top-three pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. The true freshman is averaging 1.62 points per game with 26 points (11g, 15a) in 16 games on the season. At 12-7-1 (4-6-0 Big Ten), his Wolverines have room to improve, but he's been the headliner on a loaded team, even if it lost key players to the pros at the end of last season. 

The last freshman to win the Hobey Baker was Jack Eichel after a 71-point season, which saw Boston University fall to Providence in the national championship. The next season, Michigan's Kyle Connor also put up 71 points to lead the nation, but did not win the Hobey. It's only been done twice (Paul Kariya won with Maine in 1993). Fantilli's on a similar pace as Eichel and Connor, even after missing some games with illness and Canada's World Juniors selection camp. He has as strong of a case as any to be the next frosh to win it.  

Ryan McAllister, freshman forward | Western Michigan

McAllister had an absolute monster of a season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) last season, posting a mind-boggling 57-82--139 in 60 games. So far this season, he's continued his strong form in his debut NCAA season, leading the nation with 33 points (10g, 23a) through 20 games (1.65 per game). The No. 18 Broncos are 10-9-1 overall (4-5-1 NCHC), so a strong run for WMU in the second half would help his case. McAllister has far and away been their most-valuable player, being held off the scoresheet just three times and posting 3-9--12 in seven games against top-20 teams at the time. 

GREAT LAKES INVITATIONAL: Everything you need to know for this season's tournament

Carter Mazur, sophomore forward | Denver

Mazur's got 19 total points in 18 games, but what stands out is his 14 goals, which are just one off the lead in Division I. What's even more impressive is half of his goal production has come at 5-on-5 play, while he's factored in on five more goals in such situations. No. 1 Denver (14-4-0, 8-2-0 NCHC) has been a buzzsaw for the better part of the season, rattling off five straight wins and winning 12 of 14 since an early season sweep at UMass. They look to be in a prime position to repeat, and Mazur has been one of the biggest reasons. 

Sean Farrell, junior forward | Harvard

Farrell's sample size is smaller than the other guys mentioned in this list, thanks to the Ivy League's later starts, but he has been other-worldly for Harvard with 1.64 points per game (second in the nation). He's got 18 points (7g, 11a) in 11 games for the Crimson (8-2-1, 7-1-0 ECAC), who have been one of the best teams in the nation since getting underway. He's been held scoreless just twice this season, and has 6-8--14 in his last six games. Harvard's schedule gets a lot tougher over the next few weeks, so we'll see if Farrell and the rest of the team can keep it up. 

Matt Brown, senior forward | Boston University

Hockey East's overall scoring leader with 23 points (8g, 15a) in 16 games, Brown has been as consistent as they come for the No. 8 Terriers, who roll into the semester break at 11-5-0 (8-4-0 HEA) after one of the strongest first-half schedules in Division I. Over his last six games, the former UMass Lowell standout has three goals and seven assists for 13 points, including a four-point outing in a raucous 9-6 loss at Boston College last week. It doesn't get any easier for BU or Brown in the second half, and he'll need to keep a close pace with his current 1.44 points per game to strengthen his case. 

RANKINGS: Click or tap here for the latest USCHO poll

Jimmy Snuggerud, freshman forward | Minnesota

File Snuggerud as yet another freshman making a strong push to win the Hobey, particularly over the last couple weeks where he's been in the midst of a seven-game point streak, putting up 7-8--15 in that span. He leads No. 3 Minnesota (15-5-0, 10-2-0 Big Ten) with 25 points in 19 games, checking in with the fourth-most goals (12) in Division I. A first round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Snuggerud is beginning to separate himself, even as one of the youngest players on a deep, talented team, which has won four straight and eight of 10. 

Devon Levi, sophomore goaltender | Northeastern

Levi came close to becoming the third goalie to ever win the Hobey last season, finishing as a top-10 finalist. Instead, Minnesota State's Dryden McKay accomplished the feat, while, peculiarly, Levi won the Mike Richter Award as the nation's top goaltender. Nevertheless, he may not be totally replicating last year's historic numbers. But with a .930 save percentage, a 2.23 goals-against average and three shutouts, he's been arguably the biggest reason that Northeastern (7-7-3, 6-4-2 HEA) has stayed afloat, even when they've been decimated by injuries and bad luck. Four losses in a row for the Huskies certainly doesn't help his campaign, but he and NU have good opportunities to bounce back in the coming weeks.  

Alex Jefferies, junior forward | Merrimack

The No. 6 Warriors have been one of, if not the biggest surprises in all of college hockey this season, right there with Michigan State and Penn State. Perhaps the biggest reason for No. 6 Merrimack's resurgence is Jefferies, who leads the team with 21 points (6g, 15a). The Warriors have won three in a row and 10 of their last 11, jumping out to the best start in the program's Division I history (13-4-0, 9-2-0 HEA) with impressive wins over some top teams. In that 11-game span, Jefferies has three goals and 10 assists. With the team sitting at third in the PairWise, he has helped set the Warriors up nicely for the second half. 

BEANPOT: What you need to know for the 2023 tournament

Dylan Anhorn, senior defenseman, St. Cloud State

The Union transfer is producing over a point per game as a defenseman with five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 18 games. He leads all defenseman in Division I in scoring. The No. 4 Huskies (14-4-0, 7-3-0) have surged up the rankings this season, establishing themselves as a top-five program, thanks largely to Anhorn leading a blue-line that's giving up just 2.1 goals per game. He has 3-6--9 in his previous seven games, and the bulk of his production has come at 5-on-5. 

Luke Hughes, sophomore defenseman | Michigan

Hughes came into the year with a heap of expectations on his shoulders after a tremendous freshman season. While it took him a little bit to fully get going this season with just 18 points (3g, 15a) in 20 games this season, averaging 0.90 points per game, he's not far off the 0.95 pace that helped him finish as a top-10 finalist last year. A big second half helped propel him into the mix in 2021-22, and he could be in line for a similar finish with how strong his supporting cast is. 

Keep an eye on: Colin Graf (freshman forward, Quinnipiac), Lane Hutson (freshman defenseman, BU), Cutter Gauthier (forward, Boston College), Robert Mastrosimone (forward, Arizona State), Riese Gaber (junior forward, North Dakota), Dylan St. Cyr (graduate goaltender, Michigan State), Ryan Tverberg (senior forward, UConn), Jami Krannila (senior forward, St. Cloud State), Mackie Samoskevich (sophomore forward, Michigan), Logan Cooley (freshman forward, Minnesota)

SCOREBOARD: Keep up with the latest action across Division I men's hockey

There are certainly plenty of freshmen bursting onto the scene that could further entrench themselves into the conversation. In particular among the first-years, keep an eye on BU's Lane Hutson. What he's done as an undersized freshman defenseman can't be overlooked, putting up 1.13 points per game. For reference, Hughes put up less than a point per game as a freshman last season, finishing as a top-10 finalist. 

Cooley and Gauthier have also been impressive and important to Minnesota and BC, respectively. 

Nevertheless, while many freshman are having worthy seasons, it's still been historically difficult for first-years to take home the Hobey. 

With all of that being said, there's still a lot of runway left this season, to say the least. The races around each conference are only beginning to heat up, and the PairWise is beginning to creep into the back of everyone's minds, if it hasn't already. We'll see how this shakes out as the season rolls on after the new year. 

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